The world is big and changing, but Vermillion, Georgia, like so many small towns, exists in a time warp. Rufus—a fifteen-year-old budding painter with flame-red hair—is so pale and skinny that one of his nicknames is “Matchstick.” He is also gay and a synesthete, with right-wing Christian parents. Syd—spiky-haired, smart-mouthed, and tired of having to act like a parent to her own mother—isn’t sure what she’s into, except for old movies, black eyeliner, and black coffee.
When Rufus and Syd find one another, they start finding themselves too, with the unlikely help of two Vermillion natives—Josephine, an old bohemian, who for many years ran a repertory cinema in Chicago with her late husband, and Cole, a middle-aged gay man suffering from brain damage due to the horrific hate crime perpetrated against him in his youth.
When the pressures of small-town life in the Bible Belt begin to build, Rufus and Syd, proud atheists, need the strength they’ve found together to survive.