Arnold is a boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has several problems like ‘born with water on the brain’ (he has a big head), he has a poor eyesight, seizures and lips and stutters. This is the reason he is regularly beaten up and calling names like ‘retard’ (for the brain damage) and ‘globe’ (because of his large head). He is very poor and he only has two friends, his dog – Oscar - and Rowdy (a boy who also live on the reservation). When Oscar gets sick his father kills him and now his only friend is Rowdy.
Rowdy has problems on its own. His father abuses him and his mother. He is the only one who wants to protect Arnold (who often is called Junior) from his bullies and physical abuse. On the first high school day Arnold found out that his textbook was used by his mother – so it was approximately fifty-five years old. He knows that alcohol (and because of that almost everyone is poor) is more important to most residents than an education is. Junior decides to transfer from his reservation school to Reardan High, a white school that is more than twenty miles away. All of the ‘white’ kids are rich and have enough money to buy everything they want. Once he arrives, Junior finds that he is the only Indian (besides the school’s mascot) there. He get to know a popular white girl, Penelope, and a very smart boy, Gordy. His best friend on the reservation, Rowdy, stays behind and vows never to speak to Junior—the “traitor”—again. Junior also knows that everyone else on the reservation thinks he is an “apple”: red on the outside but white on the inside. Meanwhile, most of the students at Reardan treat Junior as an outcast as well. Although he is stimulated by the intellectual challenges of Reardan’s advanced curriculum, Junior must fight to improve his social standing both on and off the reservation. He accomplishes this accidentally when he goes out for Reardan’s basketball team. He surprises himself when, as a freshman, he makes the varsity team and eventually even becomes a starting player. Junior’s biggest challenge comes when he must play against his former basketball team from the reservation, whose star player is none other than Junior’s ex–best friend, Rowdy. On the first match Wellpinit wins after Rowdy cheats on Junior. But in the second game Junior is the hero of the day.