Venus Castro is a bright, headstrong 15-year-old girl born to an abusive drug addict, now living in foster care in New York City's Dominican community. Frustrated with school and contemptible of her widowed foster mother for dating undercover policeman Ralph, Venus takes to the streets believing she can make it on her own, only to learn that she is ill-prepared for the life of a runaway. In desperation, she puts on her best tough-girl act to join the gang of drug dealer Juanita, who offers her shelter and protection-as long as Juanita gets what she wants. Venus, unaware of the consequences, soon starts two-timing Juanita with a young undercover cop who happens to be Ralph's squad partner. Ralph intervenes in an attempt to return Venus to her home but is thwarted by the girl's misplaced loyalty to Juanita. Only when Venus finds herself involved in a deadly holdup of a bodega d s she understand the terrible reality of the life she has chosen.