When 16-year-old Malibu princess Poppy (Emma Roberts) trashes her beach front home in order to “welcome” her dad’s (Aidan Quinn) new fiancée, he carries out a long-promised threat to send her away to boarding school in York, England. There, she’ll finally learn the scholarship, fellowship and loyalty that have so far eluded her.
Very much a fish out of water, Poppy gets off to a royal bad start at the Abbey Mount School for Girls. She refuses to acknowledge the authority of snobbish and cruel Head Girl Harriet (GEORGIA KING) and makes an instant enemy of the fifth-generation Abbey Mount student. She also fails to see the point in bonding with her schoolmates. Why bother? Poppy intends to be out of there and back to the beach in a few weeks anyway.

Several of her roommates—Drippy (JUNO TEMPLE), Kiki (SOPHIE WU) and Josie (LINZEY CROCKER)—give Poppy the cold shoulder once her outrageous behavior starts costing them privileges. But the most mature of the girls, Kate (KIMBERLY NIXON), extends an olive branch when Poppy confides that her mother died in a car accident five years ago and she’s been struggling since. Naturally, the girls decide to help their wounded American sister get back home by aiding her in an expulsion.
Let Operation Freedom begin.

When a series of audacious, humorous pranks doesn’t result in punishment from the school’s headmistress, Mrs. Kingsley (Natasha Richardson), the girls quickly realize they have to up the ante. Kate suggests Poppy target Mrs. Kingsley’s son, Freddie (Alex Pettyfer). The last girl caught snogging with him was sent packing.

When Harriet discovers Poppy is making the moves on Freddie, she’s furious. She’s always had a crush on him and (in her mind) is the rightful recipient of his affections. As Poppy challenges all Harriet holds sacred, the queen bee begins a campaign of sabotage. She has two intentions: leave Poppy friendless and Freddie-less.

Meanwhile, to take her mind off her troubles, Poppy gets in the swing of school life. When challenged by Mrs. Kingsley to make an effort, she launches into training the lacrosse team...American style. Poppy begins to understand her new friends are genuine and truly care about her—versus the vapid hangers-on she left behind at her old high school. All her efforts to leave the academy, particularly her flirtations with Freddie, make her realize that happiness at Abbey Mount might be in her grasp.

Furious at losing her power, Harriet forges emails that suggest Poppy has been using everyone for her own advantage—laughing at the idiocy of her new friends and the foolishness of Freddie. All her mates are hurt and devastated by the lies. Utterly forlorn, Poppy retreats to a quiet corner of the kitchen. She sits in misery, nervously flicking her souvenir lighter. Absorbed and unthinking, she lights a thread at the bottom of the kitchen curtains, and they accidentally alight. Horrified, she quickly puts out the fire and runs from the scene, leaving her lighter behind.

Though Poppy thinks she put out the fire, it has unfortunately been relit. It spreads and chaos ensues throughout the school. She confesses to Mrs. Kingsley and, after doing so, discovers a lacrosse team photo from 1977 and learns her mother both went to her school and was captain of the team. Mrs. Kingsley has no choice but to propose her for expulsion before the school honor court, a trial by peers system. Fortunately, Kate and the other girls have finally realized the emails were doctored and show up to support their close friend.

During her interrogation of Poppy, Harriet accidentally trips up and reveals her own role in restarting the fire. Poppy is found innocent and then leads her team to a triumphant lacrosse win. While on holiday back home, a blissful Poppy and her newly happy dad relish the enjoyment Freddie and the girls find at their taste of the wild child’s world. She realizes the value of her lessons at the Abbey Mount and understands she has finally become the young woman her mother dreamed she’d be.

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