Sam Montgomery lives in the San Fernando Valley with her widowed father Hal, who runs a popular, sports-themed diner. Hal meets and eventually marries a mean woman named Fiona. When the 1994 Northridge earthquake strikes, Hal is killed. As he supposedly left no will, Fiona receives all of his belongings, including the diner. Eight years later, Sam is employed at the diner and tormented by Fiona and her two daughters, Brianna and Gabriella who think they are more poular than they are. Sam struggles to fit in at North Valley High School, where head cheerleader Shelby Cummings calls her names such as "Diner Girl. " Sam confides in her online pen pal "Nomad," who shares her dream to attend Princeton University. "Nomad"'s true identity is Austin Ames, the popular - yet unhappy - quarterback of the school's football team and Shelby's reluctant boyfriend; he attempts to break up with Shelby who "chooses to ignore that". "Nomad" proposes that they meet in person at the school's Halloween dance. Initially reluctant, Sam is convinced by her friend Carter Farrell to go to the dance and meet her mysterious online friend.