When Jeannette starts high school, Dinitia tells Jeannette that her mother’s boyfriend has moved in. Later, she tells Jeannette she is pregnant. When Dinitia disappears, Jeannette hears that she stabbed her mother’s boyfriend to death.
Jeannette is disappointed that boys don’t like her. She describes herself as tall and pale with bright red hair and buck teeth. Jeannette works as a proofreader for the school newspaper, the Maroon Wave, and finds that she likes the professional, fast-paced atmosphere of a newsroom. The typesetter complains about the way Jeannette smells, so she starts taking baths at Uncle Stanley’s again, making sure to keep a safe distance.
The following summer, Mom goes to a conference in Charleston to renew her teaching license. Lori goes to a summer camp for gifted high school students, and Jeannette is excited to take control of the family budget. But when Dad asks for money, she finds herself unable to tell him no.
To pay Jeannette back for the money he’s used, he takes her to a bar, where he wins eighty dollars in a pool game against his friend Robbie. As part of the scheme to distract Robbie, Dad lets Robbie dance with Jeannette. After, Robbie takes Jeannette upstairs to his apartment, where he attempts to rape her. When Jeannette tells Dad that Robbie attacked her, Dad compares the incident to the time he threw Jeannette in the hot spring, knowing she’d figure out how to survive. He says they make a great team.
To make ends meet, Jeannette lies about her age to get a job at Becker’s Jewel Box. She likes the work, but Mr. Becker sometimes touches her inappropriately. When Mr. Becker refuses to let Jeannette earn commission, she steals a watch, but returns it a few days later because she’s afraid of losing her job.
Lori returns from camp renewed and inspired to leave Welch as soon as possible. Mom returns from Charleston and announces she will quit her teaching job and dedicate all her time to art. Furious and fed up, Jeannette confronts her parents for not being more responsible. Dad whips her with a belt for her disrespect. Jeannette runs outside to clear her head and decides she will also leave Welch. She buys a piggy bank to help her and Lori save for a new life in New York City.