A young girl's birthday is usually full of surprises and joy, but for Katya Dubko, it is truly the end of the world as she knows it. This coming-of-age story follows the life of Katya, an eleven-year old Ukrainian girl whose life is turned upside down after the Chernobyl disaster. Katya lives in a village near Chernobyl and her father works at the nuclear power station. Her family is steeped in Soviet patriotism and she believes that the station is a magical factory.
When Katya is sent into the forest to play while her family prepares for her birthday, she meets a mysterious, other-worldly boy named Sammy, who tells her about the meltdown at Chernobyl. Sammy reveals the truth about the station and about blind Soviet patriotism, and Katya's innocent world is destroyed. With Sammy's help, she realizes she is no longer a little girl in a fairy tale but has become the author of her own life.