The story is told by a group of neighborhood boys in the form of flashbacks. The Lisbon family are a Catholic, secretive family that is the fascination of all of the neighbors (largely due to the beauty of the five Lisbon sisters). The father is a teacher at the school and the mother is a strictly religious homemaker.
The lives of the Lisbon family are forever changed when the youngest daughter, 13 year old Cecilia slits her wrists while taking a bath. She is discovered fast enough to be rescued and following the doctor's suggestions, the parents allow the girls to throw their first party in the hopes of cheering Cecilia up. The plan is a failure when Cecilia excuses herself right after the boys arrive and jumps from her window, instantly dying as she is impaled on one of the spikes of their fence.
When school begins, the Lisbon sister arrive back at school as if nothing has ever happened. 14 year old Lux attracts the attention of school heartthrob Trip Fontaine. On a group date with all of the sisters, Trip convinces Lux to leave the dance and have sex on the football pitch. After they have sex, Trip grows disinterested with Lux and leave her alone on the pitch, causing her to miss her curfew. Mrs. Lisbon is furious and takes all of the girls out from school, further isolating them from society.
Their lives as well as their house fall into disarray. Mr Lisbon officially takes a leave of absence from his job and none of the Lisbon members leave their home. After months of isolation, the boys begin to communicate with the girls by playing records over the telephone. One night, the girls send them a note asking them to come to the house at midnight. Once they arrive, they see only Lux, smoking a cigarette. As the boys fantasise about running away with the sisters, they are completely unaware that the girls are all quietly killing themselves. After some time has past, the boys go to find the girls, only to see Bonnie's body hanging from the rafters. Horrified, the boys run away.
In the morning, the authorities discover all of the bodies of the sisters.