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Brook High is a great grey concrete ants' nest of a school. John Malarkey is the new kid, thrown in at the deep end of Year 11. He's the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Through what at first appears to be a random meeting, he helps a girl called Mary Chase out of a tricky situation, but is subsequently accused of stealing report cards to sell to students so they can write their own bogus reports. He quickly realises it was all a set-up, and that he's been used to take the fall. The teacher who accuses him of the crime gives him one day to prove his innocence. Malarkey tries to track down Mary Chase, but it's difficult in such a huge place. He does, however, discover strange goings-on beneath the surface of the normal school day. The more questions he asks the deeper he becomes involved in the corrupt under-belly of the school. He's also noticed the peculiar fact that so many kids at Brook wear Adidas trainers - black with the three white stripes. He realises that these are the badge of membership worn by those involved in the school's 'mafia'. He discovers that the name of the organisation's leader is Freddie Cloth, and Mary Chase turns out to be Cloth's girlfriend. Malarkey is soon noticed for asking so many questions, and receives warnings and then threats to back down. But, with time quickly running out for him, he still has to prove his innocence. And the only way to do this is to get to Freddie Cloth.