Barbara, Fiona, Roger and Lofty are 17 year old Year 12 students at a High School in Cairns. They are also the Cadet Under-Officers of the school's army cadet unit. When Fiona goes missing just before the June school holidays they begin a search for her. Barbara becomes convinced that Fiona has been kidnapped by a religious sect nicknamed 'The Smiley People'. She also believes the police are not making a serious effort to find Fiona.
Three more CUOs: Gordon, Jennifer, and Karen, arrive for a holiday. Gordon is in love with Barbara. His arrival doubles the emotional stress on Barbara who is torn over whether she prefers women to men.
The group set off on a hiking trip. But it becomes no ordinary sightseeing march as they try to follow a group of Smileys. This leads them into a succession of encounters with strange characters. Small clues lead to deadly discoveries and the friends find themselves in a situation where they cannot call on help and must act.
During the resulting life and death struggle Barbara finds herself torn between conflicting desires and making difficult moral choices. Her leadership and character are tested to the limit and her physical endurance stretched to near breaking point in the jungle covered mountains around Kuranda. During this time of extreme testing she discovers her true self.
Throughout this the group is torn by personality clashes and shifting romantic relationships, all of which makes it harder for Barbara to hold them together as a team and adds to the difficulty of her decision making.
The story is a blend of intense personal interaction and fast moving adventure. The story is written for young adults and contains violence, some coarse language and sexual references. It is not suitable for Primary School children.