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Sixteen-year-old Judy Wilson lives with her brother Jim and his wife Nell in a small, ramshackled house in Fall River, California. The Wilson family has recently migrated from the East to work in the shipyards. One day, Judy, who works in a lunch wagon at the plant, is persuaded by Danny Cheston, the son of a socially prominent family, to accompany him to a nightclub that evening. When, at the club, Danny refuses an offer from his friends Jerry and Opal to add liquor to their soft drinks, they pour alcohol into Judy's coke while she and Danny are dancing. As a result, Judy becomes inebriated, and she and Danny are taken into custody by Linda Woodford, a juvenile probation officer. Linda takes Judy home, and Jim blames Danny for his sister's condition and orders the boy out of the house. Despite her brother's animosity, Judy falls in love with Danny, and when he joins the Navy and is assigned to training camp in San Diego, she accepts an invitation from his friend Herb, and Jerry and Opal to join them on a drive to San Diego. Too late, Judy discovers that the car is stolen and, after Herb brutally beats a gas station attendant for questioning him about his gasoline coupons, Judy leaves the group and hitchhikes the rest of the way to San Diego. Upon arriving at the Naval camp, Judy learns that Danny has been assigned to leave for the East Coast and hurries to the train station to bid him farewell. Arriving just in time to say goodbye, Judy is then taken into custody by the authorities as an accessory to the murder of the gas station attendant, who has died from Herb's brutal beating. In jail, Opal accuses Judy of informing on the group and attacks her. Linda, feeling sympathy for Judy, sends a message to Danny informing him of her predicament. At the trial, which is chaired by Mrs. Cheston and the other elders of the community of Fall River, Linda makes an impassioned plea for the establishment of youth centers throughout the country. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judy is exonerated by Danny's testimony, Herb is ordered to adult court to face a charge of murder and Opal and Jerry are sent to a work farm. After Danny rejoins his division, Judy occupies her time by helping Linda establish a new housing program and day nursery for the children of war workers.