It has been more than a year since the alien race known as the Ba'ren made contact with humans - and 17-year-old Tiffany Jackson-Li couldn't care less. The excitement, drama, and romance over the aliens coming to the United States are nowhere to be found in east Los Angeles. Life for Tiffany and her family continues to be a struggle, as her impending college expenses increase and the rising racial tensions are making it harder to live in their working-class neighborhood.
Seeking to help her family's finances and fulfill her dream of becoming a writer, Tiffany applies for the US State Department's Early Ambassadorial Program. She competes with thousands of other teenagers to become America's next student ambassador to the Ba'ren, and for guaranteed admissions - all costs covered - to an elite college of her choice.
Tiffany must endure the media scrutiny, backstabbing contestants, and the ever-present threats by anti-alien extremists. As she gets closer to winning, she learns troubling truths about what this Program - and the Ba'ren - are really doing.