Dawn Cottrell is a 16-year-old girl who tries to please others, but in so doing, denies her own feelings. She constantly struggles to fit, both at school and in her private life, but is unsuccessful. At home Dawn does her best to placate her overbearing mother, Joyce, while trying to gain the simplest affections of her passive father, Russell. Dawn suppresses her feelings and self-loathing so deeply and for so long that her only emotional release is to cause herself physical pain -- by secretly cutting and burning her body.
After a series of dangerous self-injury incidents, Dawn is finally convinced that she needs outside help and agrees to meet with specialist Dr. Parella. Dawn eventually realizes that Dr. Parella seems to understand the torment of her volatile and painful inner world. With the help of Dr. Parella, Dawn finally begins to see that there is hope to overcome her illness as she learns how to express her feelings through words, instead of by injuring herself.