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Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop-radio-loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence. He finds refuge through bonding sessions with his father-listening to records on their brand new hi-fi and taking in his advice on dealing with bullies and driving a car with authority. But when Danny's father passes away suddenly, he's left alone to deal with his mother, a fragile woman who's angry at the loss of her husband and the increasingly seismic cultural shifts in the world. As she soldiers on with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny soon realizes that, between his tormentors at school and toxic dinners at home, he needs to be more determined than ever to persevere. When he discovers rock music and, in particular, the drum and guitar-heavy songs of Michigan legends like The MC5 and Iggy Pop, he finds his reason to carry on and gains a new identity at school.