An unidentified narrator says that a young man named Jasper Jones has come to his window. The narrator has no idea why, but guesses that Jasper is desperate and in trouble. The narrator says that he lives in a small “sleepout” with only one window. Because it’s summer, and very hot, the narrator reads at night. Tonight, Jasper Jones knocks at the narrator’s window, frightening him.
Jasper Jones calls to the narrator, whom he addresses as Charlie to come out. Charlie does so, thinking that this is the first time he’s ever snuck out of his home. He’s also excited that Jasper Jones needs his help. As he squeezes through his window, he feels like a foal being born.
Jasper and Charlie walk through the moonlight, away from Charlie’s house. Charlie thinks that his mother is asleep, and he studies Jasper. Jasper is a year older than Charlie, but he’s much stronger and bigger. He wears no shoes, and looks like an “island castaway.” Before Jasper and Charlie have gone far, Charlie runs to the back steps of his house to fetch his sandals. As he puts them on, he senses that he’s somehow proving himself weak and effeminate.
After Charlie puts on his sandals, he and Jasper head out of the small town where Charlie lives: Corrigan, Australia. Jasper offers Charlie a cigarette. Because Charlie has never smoked before, he puffs his cheeks and sighs, as if to say that he’s smoked too much already. Jasper shrugs and lights a cigarette for himself.
Charlie's father asks him what he was doing last night. Charlie explains that he was up late reading Pudd’nhead Wilson. His father muses that it’s been years since he read that. He also tells Charlie that Jeffrey has been waiting for Charlie to wake up. Charlie remembers that today is the day of the “Test”—an important trial run for professional cricketers—featuring Jeffrey’s favourite cricket player. Jeffrey is probably listening to the match via radio right now. Charlie finds cricket dull, but he gets up to leave the house and find Jeffrey, quickly drinking all the coffee his mother gave him.
A week after Laura’s death, Jasper Jone's returns to Charlie’s window. It is a week, Charlie notes, that feels as long as his entire life. In the remainder of the week leading up to Jasper’s return, little happens. Jeffrey doesn’t make the Country Week cricket team, which surprises no one, Charlie's mother is irritable, his father is calm, and Charlie himself finishes Pudd’nhead Wilson and moves on to Innocents Abroad. The search party continues, with no success, and various men from the town are drafted to fight in Vietnam.
The night that Jasper returns to Charlie’s window, there is a town meeting at the Miners’ Hall. The town chaplain and a few town council members take questions from the townspeople. For the most part, they say that they have no information or evidence about Laura’s whereabouts. The most likely possibility, they suggest, is that Laura hitchhiked out of town.
In the vestibule of the Miners’ Hall, Charlie notices Jeffrey with his parents. Charlie greets Jeffrey, and they agree that the police know nothing. In the middle of their conversation, there is a cry. Mrs Lu has poured hot water into her teacup from an urn left for the townspeople to drink from. A woman named Sue Findley sees her doing so, and angrily slaps the teacup from her hand, throwing scalding water onto Mrs. Lu’s skin. Sue then yells profanities at Mrs. Lu, who is completely quiet and still. As she’s about to grab Mrs. Lu’s hair, some townspeople lead Sue away, leaving Jeffrey to lead his mother out of the building. He waves goodbye to Charlie, so casually that Charlie doesn’t know how to respond. After Jeffrey and his mother leave, Charlie’s parents talk to each other without mentioning what just happened to Mrs. Lu.
The morning after the events of the previous chapter,Charlie wakes up covered in sweat. For a split second, his mind is blank, and then he remembers everything that happened the night before. He notices that there’s a ring of grime and dirt around him in bed. He goes to the bathroom, urinates, and draws a bath. Charlie then washes himself with granite soap. He looks at his body—he’s scrawny and pale, nothing like Jasper Jones.
It occurs to Charlie that Jasper may have been responsible for Laura’s death after all. While Charlie finds this possibility unlikely, based on the time he’s spent with Jasper, he admits to himself that he barely knows Jasper Jones at all. Jasper’s biggest alibi, Charlie thinks, is that he went to Charlie for help—if Jasper had killed Laura, he would never have brought anyone else to the scene of the crime. Charlie also finds it difficult to doubt anything Jasper says, because he speaks with such conviction.
Charlie walks into the kitchen, where his parents are sitting. For a moment, he thinks that they’re going to demand to know where he was the night before—but instead they laugh and tease him for sleeping too late. His mother sarcastically asks him if he’s enjoyed his stay in the “hotel.” Charlie thinks that his mother is always sarcastic, especially when she’s annoyed with something, which she nearly always is. Charlie tells his mother that her hair looks nice, a remark that she treats with great suspicion, eventually snapping, “Thank you.” Charlie's father finds this exchange amusing. Charlie's mother gives him coffee, which Charlie accepts silently.
Charlie's father asks him what he was doing last night. Charlie explains that he was up late reading Pudd’nhead Wilson. His father muses that it’s been years since he read that. He also tells Charlie that Jeffrey has been waiting for Charlie to wake up. Charlie remembers that today is the day of the “Test”—an important trial run for professional cricketers—featuring Jeffrey’s favorite cricket player. Jeffrey is probably listening to the match via radio right now. Charlie finds cricket dull, but he gets up to leave the house and find Jeffrey, quickly drinking all the coffee his mother gave him.
For sneaking out of the house, Charlie's parents “sentence” him to his room until the New Year. Charlie resumes his story on Boxing Day, shortly after Jeffrey has been made “twelfth man” for the cricket team. Jeffrey won this position because the team needed an errand runner, not because of his talent. Because Jeffrey will be playing on Boxing Day, Charlie’s parents let him out of his room to watch.
Charlie’s narrative jumps back to the night his parents found him missing. After Charlie returned, he walked into his home with the Sarge and his parents. The Sarge sat down with Charlie and asked him questions. His first question was whether Charlie had been with Jasper Jones. In that instant, Charlie discovered that he enjoyed lying. He told the Sarge that he was “fond” of Eliza Wishart, and that he’d wanted to go see her, in order to comfort her. To Charlie’s surprise, the Sarge accepted his lie. Charlie added that he’d been unable to make it to Eliza’s, and so he returned to his house, trying to avoid the search cars. As he told this lie, Charlie began to enjoy himself. After Charlie finished his story, the Sarge told Charlie that he was “a lucky boy,” and that he couldn’t keep sneaking out, even to help Eliza. Charlie marveled that this calm, fatherly person was the same Sarge who beat Jasper Jones. After the Sarge left the house,Charlie’s parents told him that he’d be grounded until the end of the year. Afterwards, Charlie yelled at Wesley, accusing him of being a neglectful father who didn’t pay attention to his own wife or child, or care about their feelings. Charlie was surprised that his mother would accuse his father of any of these things, since it wasn’t his father that Charlie snuck out with. Charlie thought that his mother was using the incident as an opportunity to tell Wesley the things she’d been thinking for years.
The day after he sees Jeffrey, Charlie wakes up and sees a large wasp on his window. He throws a copy of The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer, at the wasp. The book misses its target, but causes the window to fall shut. Charlie wonders if he’s banished the wasp, or just made it angry.
Charlie enters the kitchen, where his parents are sitting. His mother tells him to stay in sight of the house if he spends time with Jeffrey. Charlie asks why, and in response, she only glares at him and says that she’s his mother. Charlie is angry with his mother for always winning arguments. He’s also angry that his father remains silent during these arguments. Charlie remains silent, and his mother takes this as an affirmation that he’ll stay near the house.
Charlie sits at the kitchen table and reads the paper. There is news of the Vietnam War—more Australian soldiers are being shipped there to help the Americans. Charlie's father has wanted to protest the war, but Charlie's mother always tells him that it’s a waste of time. Charlie wants his father to stand up to his mother and be brave.
After he reads the paper, Charlie walks to Jeffrey’s house, where An Luis still working on his garden. Charlie knocks on the door, and Jeffrey answers it, even though he almost never does so. Jeffrey explains that he’s been grounded for swearing. Yesterday, Mrs Sparkman was at the door when Jeffrey told his mother he was going to play “fucking cricket.” Sparkman told Mrs Lu, what the word meant, and she grounded Jeffrey. Jeffrey isn’t allowed to listen to the radio or go outside. He tells Charlie to go find Eliza, and teases Charlie for being “queer,” which Charlie finds ridiculous.
It is New Year’s Eve morning, and Charlie is spending time with Jeffrey, who has become fascinated with Bruce Lee. Jeffrey wants to learn the infamous “one-inch punch.” They talk about karate and play cricket on the Lu's front lawn, which, Charlie notes, is nothing but a bug-free piece of soil now. Friends and neighbours have given An new flowers and seeds to replant his garden. Charlie admits that this is a nice gesture, but he’s skeptical that the neighbours would have done anything had An Lu’s garden not been destroyed—when Sue Findley scalded Mrs Lu, for example, no one did anything about it. Lately, Charlie has found it difficult to eat anything—he’s been too obsessed with Eliza Wishart. He also feels anxiety in his stomach because he hasn’t heard from Jasper in more than a week. It’s possible that the police have arrested him again. Charlie and Jeffrey trade insults—Jeffrey teases Charlie about kissing Eliza, and Charlie says that Jeffrey is “a volcanic eruption of stupidity.” They mention the upcoming fireworks display at Miners’ Hall, and Jeffrey hints that Eliza might be there. As they laugh and joke, Charlie wonders if he’ll able to leave Jeffrey behind when he leaves Corrigan one day. In a way, saying goodbye to Jeffrey will be harder than saying goodbye to his own family. Jeffrey has always made Charlie feel relaxed and confident in himself. Charlie thinks that it’s been difficult not telling Jeffrey about Laura. He wonders if Laura’s dead body will rise to the surface of the lake soon, and if he and Jasper will be arrested for hiding her there. He’s reluctant to go to the fireworks display that night for fear of running into Eliza—he’ll be too tempted to break his promise to Jasper and tell her about Laura. Charlie thinks about leaving town with Jasper, avoiding any responsibility for Laura’s disappearance. He could go to a new school, or travel with Jasper, as if they were characters from On the Road. Charlie fantasizes about exploring Australia with Jasper and writing letters to Eliza—and one day, he’ll be a great author in New York. When that happens, he’ll reunite with Eliza and tell her about Laura. In the evening of New Year’s Eve, Wesley knocks on Charlie’s door and asks him if he’s going to go see the fireworks. Charlie says that he’s not sure, and that he might see Jeffrey instead. Then, Wesley tells Charlie the truth: he has been working on a novel in his study, and he’s finally finished it. Wesley wants Charlie to be the first person to read it. In his study, Wesley shows Charlie the manuscript, titled Patterson’s Curse. In spite of himself, Charlie feels jealous of his father. Without knowing it at the time, he’d always imagined himself showing his own manuscript to Wesley one day. takes Wesley’s manuscript and goes to read it in his room. Just as he’s beginning, he hears a knock at the window—Jasper is there. Jasper explains that tonight, he and Charlie need to confront Mad Jack—sneak onto his property and tell him that they know he wrote “Sorry.” Charlie says that confrontations like this only work in movies, and there’s no way Mad Jack will own up to his crime right away. Jasper insists that they visit him. He says that they’ll pretend they saw him kill Laura and scratch the word onto the tree. Tonight is the perfect time for the confrontation, he says, since everyone else will be at the fireworks display. When Charlie starts to explain, once again, that Jasper’s plan will never work, Jasper interrupts him, saying that Charlie can either help him by pretending he saw Mad Jack kill Laura, or not. He suggests that Charlie is only reluctant to go to Mad Jack’s because he’s afraid, and reminds him that he promised to help Jasper. With this, Jasper walks away from Charlie’s window. Remembering his loyalty to Jasper, Charlie decides to follow him to Mad Jack's house. He tells Wesley he’s going to see the fireworks with Jeffrey. Wesley is clearly disappointed that Charlie isn’t reading his novel right away, and a small part of Charlie is pleased with this.
The day after he digs the hole,Charlie meets Jeffrey in the street to play cricket and listen to a cricket match on the radio. He tells Jeffrey about a nightmare he had last night about The Wizard of Oz, but he neglects to mention that he was dressed as Dorothy, or that his mother was the Wicked Witch, cackling at him. Jeffrey mentions that Laura is missing, and jokes about Charlie abducting her. Charlie is secretly nervous, but he manages to joke about the matter, and Jeffrey seems not to notice his discomfort.
Charlie bowls to Jeffrey, who easily hits everything he receives. After about half an hour of this, Charlie notices two low-flying airplanes above him. For a second, he imagines that the planes have come to arrest him. Although the cricket match is about to resume on the radio, Charlie tells Jeffrey he’s going home. Jeffrey is confused, but says he’ll talk to Charlie later. Charlie arrives home, where he notices that his father is out helping with the search for Laura. Charlie's mother asks if he wants lunch, and he politely says no.
A few hours later, Charlie hears a tapping at his window. Charlie is sure that it’s Jasper, and so is surprised to see Jeffrey instead. Jeffrey is excited because his favorite cricketer, Doug Walters, did well in his first professional game. In the middle of the conversation, very casually, he tells Charlie that some of his family died yesterday. Charlie doesn’t know what to say, but he asks Jeffrey what he means. Jeffrey explains that his uncle and aunt were killed in a bombing of the village where his mother grew up. Horrified, Charlie asks Jeffrey if he’s all right. Jeffrey says that while he didn’t know his aunt and uncle personally, he feels sorry for his mother, who can’t stop weeping. He adds that his parents are trying to arrange for his cousins, aged twelve and four, to stay with them, even though this is highly difficult to do. In the meantime, his family is sending money to the people who are taking care of his cousins.
Charlie tells Jeffrey that he’s sorry for his family’s loss. Jeffrey mentions that his mother has begun saying “fuck,” which causes both of them to laugh. They spend the rest of Jeffrey’s visit talking about trivial things like toothpaste and men’s nipples. Then Jeffrey says he has to go. Charlie senses that he should say something, but doesn’t know what.
In the end, Charlie explains, he doesn’t leave Corrigan. However, his mother leaves the night after Charlie discovered her infidelity. Ruth yells at Wesley, rips his manuscript to pieces, and hits him. In response, Wesley does nothing. Ruth storms into Charlie’s room, finds Charlie’s suitcase, and fills it with her clothes and jewelry. Before she leaves, she tells Wesley “what she’d been meaning to say.” Charlie notes that Wesley is unsurprised by the things Ruth tells him. He already knew about her secrets, though Charlie isn’t sure how long he knew. It’s possible, Charlie thinks, that Wesley was trying to protect Charlie from the pain of learning that Ruth was unfaithful. In any event, Ruth has destroyed her own reputation in Corrigan—only a few hours after she leaves, the neighbors have already begun to gossip, inventing stories about her. It has been two weeks since Ruth left, Charlie reports. She has gone to live with her family, who provide her with a luxurious house. She calls Wesley only once, to tell him that she isn’t returning. Wesley doesn’t protest, but tells her to talk to Charlie to set things right. Ruth refuses to do so. Wesley takes care of Charlie without Ruth’s help. In Ruth’s absence, he’s grown out his beard, and Charlie notes that he looks quite “stately.” He had kept another copy of his manuscript in his desk, so Ruth didn’t destroy his novel at all. He has sent the novel to various publishers, though he hasn’t heard back yet. In the meantime, however, Charlie has read the book. He finds it so beautiful and brilliant that he isn’t jealous at all.
Charlie approaches Jack’s house and goes around the back, where Jack is sitting on his back porch. Jack greets Charlie warmly, and Charlie returns the greeting. Charlie asks if Jack has any peaches, and Jack replies that all his peaches have been stolen or pecked apart by birds. Careful to keep Jack on the back porch where the students can’t see him, Charlie asks Jack if he can take some of these ruined peaches—Jack cheerily obliges, saying that Charlie is free to take any of the dirty peaches lying on the ground. Charlie looks down and sees old peaches covered in insects. He’s afraid to touch them because of his dislike of insects, but Jack insists that he has nothing to be afraid of—the bees have consumed so many of the peaches that they’re “lickered up” and harmless. Charlie is about to pick up the peaches when he realizes that his return won’t be as heroic as he’d hoped—Warwick will ask him why he took so long, and why he’s found only dirty peaches. Charlie asks Jack for a favor—in return, he’ll come by to cook Jack dinner on Sunday. A moment later, the schoolboys see Charlie emerge from behind Mad Jack’s house, holding five peaches. Charlie notes with amusement that it still took courage for him to grab the peaches, since it meant touching insects. As Charlie returns from the back of the house, Mad Jack bursts out of the front of his house, carrying a shotgun and yelling. Charlie turns, snatches the shotgun out of Jack’s hands, throws it on the ground, and pushes Jack to the ground. Jack gives a theatrical wink as he keels over, and Charlie whispers that he’ll see Jack on Sunday. With this, Charlie walks away from the house in triumph. Charlie returns to the crowd of students, and they immediately begin asking him questions about Mad Jack. Charlie notices with satisfaction that Warwick Trent is hanging back—clearly, Charlie has beaten him. Charlie plans to give Jeffrey three peach pits, Eliza one, and then keep one for himself. As the students slap Charlie on the back in congratulations, someone points to the town—there is a plume of smoke coming from the city centre, meaning that a house is probably on fire. Immediately, the students run toward the fire. Charlie drops his peaches and runs, too.