Dawn Davenport, a delinquent high-school student, goes berserk when her parents refuse to buy her the shoes she wants for Christmas because "nice girls don't wear cha-cha heels": she destroys presents, topples a Christmas tree on her mother, and flees the house. Dawn hitchhikes a ride with a lecherous man, Earl Peterson, who drives her to a dump where they have sex on a discarded mattress. Dawn becomes pregnant, but Earl refuses to support her. She gives birth to a daughter, Taffy, a brattish child often beaten and severely punished by her mother. Dawn works various jobs, including stripping and waiting tables, and engages in criminal activities such as burglary and street prostitution with former high-school friends Chiclette and Concetta.