In Chicago, Jade Butterfield and David Axelrod, both teenagers, fall in love. Their consuming, passionate love becomes dangerously obsessive, especially for David. Jade's family is known in their community for a bohemian lifestyle; they even allow David to make love with Jade in her bedroom. In contrast to the openness of her family, David's home life is dull; his parents are radical political activists who ignore him. When Jade's mother goes downstairs one night, she sees Jade and David make love in her living room, and starts living vicariously. When Jade's father tries to stop them from seeing each other, David accidentally burns down the Butterfields' house. For this, he is sent to a mental hospital for the next two years and is forbidden to contact Jade ever again.
When David is released on parole, he goes to look for Jade and remains obsessed with her. In Manhattan, Jade's mother tries to seduce David, but he refuses and tells her that he can make love only with Jade. In a chance meeting, Jade's father is hit and killed by a car after running into the street to chase after David. David tries to explain to Jade's family that this was an accident, but her brother Keith falsely accuses him of murder, and David is arrested by the police. Sent to prison, David seems doomed never to see his beloved again. Jade, though, comes to realize that no one will ever love her like David does and goes to him.