Ky and Vick carry the body of a dead boy into the river that is rumored to be poisonous. Ky knows that it isn’t and reassures Vick that they will be fine. They boy died because the Officers didn’t give him enough water. They are hiding the body because he wasn’t supposed to die until they came to the Enemy. The Officer has little respect for the death of an Aberration boy, but Ky says some words quietly.
Cassia has been relocated several times. She has kept her reassures well hidden by burring them each time she is transferred. It has come to her last day and she will be returned to the city to be a Citizen and get her job assignment. She still has no idea how to get to Ky. She gets a message from her parents and little brother, but is surprised not to get anything from Xander. They take her to see a visitor and she is surprised to see her “match.”
Ky is with a group that are meant to be decoys. They are supposed to look like villagers and farmers to draw the fire of the Enemy. The Government said after six months, they would be returned to the Capital and given Citizen status, but no one seems to make it that long. Ky knew he wouldn’t be able to keep the piece of Cassia’s dress she gave him so he tied it to a tree. Some of the other decoys want to climb up a plateau to hydrate themselves with snow. Ky tries to tell them it isn’t worth it while he digs graves. The ones that went are killed. Ky and the decoy’s unofficial leader, Vick, won’t be able to bury them.
Xander explains that since he and Cassia are still technically matched. They are allowed to go on an outing and she asks to go to a museum. On their way out, she notices that they will be escorted by a different Official (they are no longer assigned by match). The new Official gives them some space. Cassia goes to a map and talks to an Archivist. She tells him she wants a map so that she can get to the Outer Provinces. She trades an item and goes to the music hall. A piece of folded paper is under her seat when she leaves. Xander and Cassia are given ten minutes to say goodbye. He tells her that he got his assignment and will be raining in a Border Province. She is upset that he is leaving and he gets angry. She shows him that she kept the pills he gave her and traded Ky’s compass.
Ky repeats the poem he says over every grave. Vick asks why he doesn’t mark notches in his boots to mark his time. Ky says he doesn’t want anyone out there to know him. He remembers the first attack he lived through. He already knows that their guns have fake ammunition. Vick tells him that the blue pills don’t help people survive; they freeze you until someone comes along to help or you die. Vick has a mini port (which they believe tracks their location) and gets a message that they are moving again. New decoys join the group in the next location, which happens to be close to Ky’s home. One kid, Eli, looks to Vick as the leader, but he just explains the truth of their “mission.” Eli points out that the Enemy has no reason to believe they are actually villages (no women/children and they are surrounded by the wrong crops). Ky remembers Cassia and tires to give Eli some hope. Ky gives Vick a signal and he sends Eli away with the mini port. Ky explains that he used to live in the area. If they can get to the canyons, the Carving, they could be safe. There are villages of Anomalies (ranked lower than Aberrations in the Society) that help people. There will also be fresh water. Ky tells Vick they will have to wait for a night firing for them to attempt running. He also says they ware taking Eli because he reminds him of Cassia’s brother, Bram. Vick says the kid won’t last that long.
Cassia uses the moonlight to read the paper she traded for. It tells the story of a man pushing a large stone up a hill to create a river. He tells a girl it will be her turn to take care of it when he is gone. Cassia realizes that the story is indicating there is an organized uprising led by the Pilot against the Society. She destroys the paper. In the morning, Officers come around collecting girls. Indie is called, but when Cassia looks out the window, she sees the other girl running away. Cassia realizes this might be her opportunity to get closer to Ky and takes her place. A line of girls are counted and put on an airship with one official and three officers. Indie is brought aboard shortly after and given the seat next to Cassia. They take off.
Ky uses undetonated shells from the previous nights firing and a gun to fashion a grenade. Vick comes over to help him with it. They want to leave the one-time weapon for the decoys they are leaving behind. They decide that they will lave that night whether there is a firing or not. Vick asks for Ky’s full name. Ky tells him his last name is Markham, though it is actually Finnow (his real parents’ last name).
While in the air, the officers start searching girls and giving out their supplies. Cassia is worried about her contraband and tablets. Indie suggests they hide each other’s secrets while the other is searched. The plan works and each is able to keep their items. they are told they will be in this special “work camp” planting cotton for six months and then will be returned to the Capital as citizens. Cassia smiles, finally traveling to the Outer Provinces and closer to Ky.
Vick’s mini-port receives a message that new, different decoys are being sent to them. Vick and Ky both know that it will be girls. The sun goes down and the firing starts. Ky tells Eli to come with him and Vick as they start running for the Carving. Ky remembers doing this when his village was destroyed, but the airship caught him that time. This time, they make it to the rocks and start climbing.
As soon as the girls are dropped off and the Society officers leave, the village leader tells them that they were sent there to die. Cassia starts calling out to see if anyone knows Ky. A boy eventually tells her that he ran for the Carving two nights before. He says he will take her and Indie decides that she is going as well. That night, he comes to get them and they leave. They run all night, but finally make it to where Ky, Eli, and Vick climbed down. She offers the boy half of her blue tablets. He takes two and runs for a different entrance into the canyon. Cassia and Indie follow after Ky.
Ky, Vick, and Eli follow a stream while making their way through the canyon. They haven’t seen any signs of life. Ky wonders why the Society bothered to give them jackets before sending them to their deaths. he cuts his up and fins a warming device and a tiny disc near the heart that collects data. The Society is trying to figure out death. he takes the disc out of his and Vick’s coats, but Eli wants his left in. Ky sees some fruit that has been crushed by a boot.
Down in the canyon, Cassia and Indie are able to find a little bit of water and some edible plants. Cassia finds out that INdie already knows about the rebellion. Her mother built a boat and tried to escape the Society. Everyone in their family became an Aberration because of it. Cassia explains that she is a first-generation Aberration (or suspects that is how she is now classified). They talk about the rebellion and its leader, the Pilot. They decide that int he morning, they will climb out and try another part of the canyon.
Ky is in awe when they find the settlement of the Farmers (what the Anomalies call themselves), but they are all disappointed that no one is there. Eli points out that some paintings on the walls are half washed away. They look around and notice that the inhabitants planned their departure carefully. Eli suggests they look higher up for anything that might have been stored. They find a path that leads up to storage caves. There are separate rooms filled with society weapon pieces, food, and books. Ky finds a map and they decide to go through the mountains to another marked settlement. They sleep in the cave. Ky wakes up and sees a light in one of the houses below.
Indie takes the contents of Cassia’s pack and leads the way up the Canyon wall. At the top, they see the remnants of a firing. There are burnt bodies all around. Indie grabs a piece of rope and they leave quickly. Cassia hopes those bodies weren’t the entire Rising or Ky.
Vick and Eli ask questions about the Rising. Ky tells them what he knows, but they start to think his father was the Pilot. That night, Vick shows Ky a pamphlet he grabbed that gives the history of the Rising. The poem he said over the decoy’s graves in the password between its members. Ky explains that he is not searching for the rebellion, only Cassia. That night, he dreams about Xander telling Cassia that he is gone.
Cassia wakes up from a dream about Xander and starts having paranoid thoughts. She thinks that she is getting sick due to stress and malnutrition, so she takes a blue tablet. She wanders out of the cave she and Indie slept in and find another with the boy who ran with them. Indie comes along and they leave. They use the rope to lower themselves back into the canyon to continue on. Cassia hopes there is something alive out there.
Vick shows Elie and Ky how to fish in a stream out in the plain. They take the food back to the Carving to smoke them in a cave. Elie tells them that his parents got sick and died in Central. He was sent to the Outer Provinces shortly after. Ky finds it odd that two young people died of sickness; it was unheard of in the Society. Vick tell Ky about how he fell in love with a girl named Laney. She was an Anomaly and he asked her parents to contract with her. They agreed and the Society came after them. He thinks she and her family fled before they arrived. He was immediately sent to the Outer Provinces.
Cassia starts finding the first signs of Ky. Her name is carved into a small tree. She wants to keep going and she does. Indie tells her that the blue pills are poison, but Cassia doesn’t believe her. She tries to take a second one, but accidentally drops it in the dark. She decides not to waste the energy trying to find it or the piece of paper Xander put in the wrapper.
Ky wakes up and Eli tells him that Vick went fishing. A firing starts close by and Ky runs out with Eli following. The Society blew up parts of the river to keep it from flowing and put in spheres that emit poison. Ky sees a rainbow trout die and looks over to see Vick’s body. Ky and Eli do what they can to remove the poison. They bury Vick’s body and Ky hears his friend talking to him until it is all over.
Cassia trudges on behind Indie, who now carries all of their things. She remembers her grandfather telling her she is too strong to take the Society’s pills. She decides she doesn’t need them. She fins the compass Ky made out of a stone and carries it with her.
Eli wants Ky to say the words over Vick’s grave, but he refuses. They go back for their supplies and split up Vick’s pack. They start heading across the plain when Eli tells him to stop and look back. When Ky finally does, he sees Cassia. he thinks she isn’t real until she points to the sky.
Cassia climbs as quickly as she can while Indie warns her to slow down. When she reaches the top, she sees two figures in the distance. She points at the sky and Ky comes running to her. They kiss.
Ky and Cassia introduce their traveling companions. They decide to go back to the cave in the Carving and decide what to do in the morning. Ky tells her about Vick. Indie tells Ky that Cassia took a blue pill. He is shocked to hear that she lived through it and kept going. Realization of what happened to the dead boy they had once travelled with hits Cassia. She explains the notes Xander left her and trading the compass. She seems excited about the Rising, but Ky doesn’t want to talk about it. He tells her about the green fabric he left on the hill.
Back in the caves, the four friends share what they have been through. Indie doesn’t think it is a good idea to try to cross the plain yet. Eli mentions Ky seeing a light on in the settlement and Cassia remembers the feeling of being followed. They decide to stay and be careful. They show the girls the cave with all the paintings. Cassia is confused by them. Ky explains that they are dancing and says that he will show her sometime.
Ky thinks about his parents and realizes that they need to enjoy their time together while they have it.
After Indie and Eli fall asleep, Ky takes Cassia outside of the cave to be alone. He asks for just one night where they can just think about each other.
It is decided that the group will make their way back down to the town at the bottom of the Carving. They settle themselves into a house some distance from where Ky saw the light. They see a man come out to bury a little girl. He marks her grave with something blue before he pours the dirt over her. Ky goes alone to talk to the man, even though Cassia protests.
Indie follows behind Ky. They explain that they are Aberrations that are running from the Society, which is trying to kill them. The man, Hunter, says he will help them if they help him. He promises to tell them more in the morning. Ky stays up all night while the others sleep. Indie is the first one up. She went through Xander’s notes and found something he actually wrote; he has a secret to tell Cassia when they meet again. She wants to know the secret and about the Uprising. She thinks Ky knows both. He doesn’t answer and can’t trust her. He wonders what she protects inside her bag.
Cassia and Ky walk through the village graveyard. She realizes that people die much younger outside of the Society. Ky points out his cousin, Matthew, whose death gave him the change to live in the Society. Ky points out that Cassia might not remember other children’s deaths because the Society would make them forget.
Hunter comes out and Eli expresses his sympathy about his daughter. He tells them he has a way into the Society’s cave, but needs Cassia to tell him about the contents (since she is closest to being a citizen). They climb out of the canyon and into a nearby cave. There is a tunnel they have to squeeze through to get to the Society’s storage cavern.
One by one, they make their way through the tunnel and into the cavern. There are large machines. Cassia opens a compartment and finds an unaccountable number of tissue samples. They find the samples for the Oria Province. Xander and Cassia are both in there (Ky is not) even though they are still alive. Cassia explains to Hunter what they have found. Hunter is furious that the Society killed the villagers for a possibility of bringing Citizens back to life. He breaks a tube in his hand. They all look to Cassia for answers. She gets overwhelmed and tells them she doesn’t have medical training like Xander. Indie wonders if Xander’s secret is related. A light starts flashing over the compartment with the missing tube.
Ky sends everyone out of the cavern while Hunter starts smashing more tissue samples. Ky tries to get him to come with him, but the request falls on deaf ears. He gives Hunter a rock to smash the tubes faster and leaves. The small group makes their way back to the caves. Indie asks about Xander’s secret again. Ky pretends not to know what she is talking about. He’s afraid that Xander’s secret will change Cassia’s feelings for both boys. He also thinks Xander should be the one to tell her.
A storm rolls in and Ky suggests they go through the books to see if they can find anything useful. She is distracted by poetry and Ky joins her. He tell her that his uncle, Patrick, taught him to sort on an old port he traded for. Luckily, Ky traded the port her her birthday poem the day the Officials came to collect everyone’s artifacts.
Ky remembers the risks his father took to stay loyal to the Rising. He taught Ky how to do his job - mechanical repair - so that no one would notice when he went to the Carving to trade. He sees Indie slip something into her pack. Once she moves on, he goes over and finds a box of maps. He suggests they each take one incase they get separated. He sees Cassia get excited over something she found. Ky nows he can’t go to the Rising with her, despite all that she has given up for him.
Cassia starts to get anxious and is ready to leave the Carving. She watches Ky update maps and realizes that the Society didn’t have a need for him because he is a creator. She also realizes he doesn’t have any interest in finding the Rising. She wants to find out why and asks for more of his story.
Indie decides to search the houses in the village. Ky follows and finds her with a mini-port reading Xander’s match profile. He knocks it from her hands. She thinks that he is the Pilot. Ky convinces her to tell him her story. She explains that she stole the card from Cassia and the mini-port from a decoy. She shows him a map that will lead them to the Rising and asks him to go with her. He won’t go, not even for Cassia. A week before the matching banquet, members of the Rising asked people to join. Xander did and asked Ky if he did as well. They both wondered if Cassia was approached. Ky realizes that Indie was the one who built the boat and tried to sail away to the Rising. He burns the map when she refuses to give up on the idea of joining them. Indie runs out of the house.
Cassia starts going through Xander’s notes, looking for clues, while Eli sleeps. Hunter shows up. He wanted to go with the other farmers, but his daughter was too sick to travel. A few others stayed behind and rigged explosives, but they didn’t take down the ships like they were supposed to. Hunter goes to give Cassia the map that will lead her to the Rising, but it is gone. She realizes that must be what Indie took and they go to find her. Instead, they find Ky burning the map.
Hunter goes to find Indie. Cassia asks why Ky tired to take the choice to joint he rebellion from them all. He doesn’t want to join the Rising and tells her so. He knows it is surrounded by death. He is afraid of loosing her, but still tells her he won’t go.
When Hunter returns with Indie, he explains that he will be leaving to catch up with the other Farmers after he seals the caves with explosives. Indie tells Cassia the whole truth and gives her back what she stole. Cassia is furious, especially when she finds out that Indie has a crush on Xander. Indie tells her she doesn’t see the boys clearly and will have to choose. She points out that she figured out Xander’s secret, but refuses to tell her what it is.
Ky takes a boat from the caves (which will hold two people). He helps Hunter set the explosives and detonates them himself. They start to leave the village.
The group starts making their way and stops in a small cave. Hunter explains that he tried to leave the farmers for the Rising once, but he was in love with the Farmer’s next leader and went back to be with her. Cassia and Eli are still confused about what to do when the group splits in two. She wants to know why Ky seems to hate the rebellion so much. He only tells them that the rebellion never came to help them. Cassia wonders if Ky put himself in the matching pool.
Ky opens up the paints Eli gave him and starts painting on the cave walls. He remembers the day his parents died. Rather than trying to bury them, he grabbed his mom’s paintbrush and ran. Cassia wakes up to see Ky’s paintings. she finds herself painted in a red dress.
Realizing that they don’t have much time before the Society finds them, they make their way out of the Carving together. They cross the plain and then set up the boat. Ky tries to put everything behind him for Cassia. He tells her he got the boat for her and she will have to choose who goes in it to get to the Rising faster.
Ky reassures Cassia that she sorted him correctly back in the food factory. She chooses Eli to go in the boat.
Eli decides that he wants to go with Hunter to joint the Farmers. They leave quickly, hoping they will all see each other again. Ky tells Cassia to go with Indie. He will follow on land and meet her at the Rising.
Cassia gets ready to say goodbye to Ky again.
Cassia shows Ky that she took her grandfather’s tissue sample. Ky shows her Vick’s that Elie took. He takes her sample and papers so that he can hide them all on the way to the Rising. He tells her that he ran when his parents died. She tells him that she loves him.
The two girls start down the river. Cassia misses one of Indie’s direction and the boat flips. They are okay, but loose both their packs. During the day, they hear an airship overhead and hide as close to the back as possible. Without any other disturbances, they reach a lake. A boat approaches and Indie tells them they have come to joint the Rising.
With everything hidden, Ky makes his way to the lake. He remembers the first time he saw Cassia, worried about Xander drowning. Ky knows he is close and leaves the cover of the trees.
Cassia and Indie are separated for questioning. Cassia leaves out any information about Hunter or Eli. They use the Society’s data to tell her they want her to be assigned within the Society.
By the time Ky makes it to the Rising, Cassia has already been sent to Central, where Xander is. Ky sin’t relieved until he hears it from Indie. He is being sent to Carnas to become an airship pilot. He finds an ex-Archivist and tells him where the books are hidden. He trades one piece for getting the rest to Cassia. Ky notices the bottom of the airship Indie leaves on is burnt. He wonders if they were hit by the explosives Hunter and the Farmers set in the Carving for the Society.
Sometime has passed and Cassia has come to be known by the Archivists in Central. She denies a trade as the price is too low. A message was sent and she will see him that night.