After seeing her boyfriend Gino mock a classmate for struggling with his schoolwork, Elena loses interest in Gino and ends the relationship. At about the same time, Lila receives declarations of romantic feelings from both Pasquale and Marcello Solara. She gently turns down the former, telling Pasquale that she thinks of him as a brother, but angrily rejects Marcello by telling him that she finds him disgusting. Although Elena cautions Lila to be careful whom she tells about this incident, Lila spreads the word widely.
Meanwhile, Elena finds her studies uninspiring even as she continues to perform well. Now that Lila no longer takes an interest in academics, Elena finds herself increasingly unmotivated and concerned that her enthusiasm for schoolwork is tied to her connection with Lila. Lila reports that Marcello is still pursuing her, and that she is anxious that her dreams of a shoe factory have given Rino inflated expectations and left him obsessed with obtaining power and wealth.
One day, Elena, Lila, Carmela, Pasquale and Rino go on an outing. Lila wants the group to go to a wealthy, fashionable neighborhood in Naples. Pasquale and Rino initially refuse, but after the group encounters the Solara brothers driving in their car with Gigliola and Ada, the two boys become self-conscious about their lack of wealth and spontaneity, and agree to go wherever Lila wants. When they arrive in the posh neighborhood, the teenagers are awe-struck and made uncomfortable by the well-dressed individuals around them. Rino insults a passing couple, which leads to a fistfight. Lila intervenes, furious with her brother. The group then splits up, with the girls leaving Rino and Pasquale behind. They are alarmed, however, to see a group of young men carrying sticks and led by the man who had fought with Rino. Elena, Lila, and Carmela hurry back to see Pasquale and Rino being attacked by this larger group. Suddenly, the Solara brothers arrive in their car. Marcello and Michele join in the fight, and with their help, Rino and Pasquale are able to scare away the other gang of young men.
After the fight ends, Rino tells the three girls to return home in the car. Elena is cautiously grateful for the aid from Marcello and Michele, but Lila seems very shaken by the experience. After the fight, Marcello begins calling regularly at the shoe store and taking an interest in Rino. Rino and Lila's father, Fernando, encourages this friendship, which he hopes will lead to opportunities for his son. Lila, however, is sure that Marcello has ulterior motives for his interest in her brother. One day while Elena is at Lila's house, Marcello comes over for dinner, having been invited by Rino. Lila's parents are very eager to please Marcello and when he expresses an interest in seeing the shoes Lila and Rino designed, they send her to fetch them. Lila, however, does not return with the shoes, leading Marcello to leave the house hurt and confused. Rino and Fernando are both furious with Lila for her behavior, but she insists that she did not want Marcello to see or handle the shoes.
As the school year ends, Elena receives very high scores. Her teacher wants to reward her for her hard work and suggests that during the summer months, Elena can spend some time with her cousin who lives on the island of Ischia. Elena at first thinks this proposal is ridiculous.
This section marks the entrance of Marcello Solara into Lila's life in a more serious and sustained way. He displays a nature that is nearly as stubborn and headstrong as Lila's own. When she first refuses him in a very humiliating way, he finds a more subtle way to court her, forming a connection first with her brother and then with her parents. This strategy is more difficult for Lila to resist, as her family sees the advantages of what an alliance with the Solara family would mean. On the surface, Marcello also seems to be the right choice to assist with pursuing the dream of the shoe factory. Lila, however, knows that by marrying him she would be giving up her independence and autonomy. She is so protective of the shoes because they symbolize something she conceived of and made, and she does not want to see that lost to Marcello. Marcello's courtship strategy also reveals the conflict between female independence and male authority. Neither Lila's father nor brother support her desire for independence, and they focus on how the match with Marcello would benefit them.
Meanwhile, Elena is struggling to differentiate her own identity from that of Lila. As Lila becomes more focused on her own struggles, Elena fears that she doesn't have enough of a distinct sense of selfhood to give her own life a purpose. The two girls have existed as, in a way, mirror images of one another, and while their attachment gives them security and stability, Elena's sense of loss also shows how the intensity of their friendship has the potential to be destructive.