Stand By Me is classified as a coming of age story about a group of adolescent boys on a journey of discovery. The story begins when the boys overhear some older teens talking about a body rumored to be that of a classmate of the younger boys who went missing. Intrigued by the possibility of seeing an actual dead body, the group of four adolescents decide to set out on an overnight excursion to the area where the body is supposed to be. The boys encounter several obstacles and face situations where they need to make grown up decisions in order to succeed in their journey.
The personalities and background stories of each boy unfolds as their journey takes place. Gordie is the level headed member of the group who is also in the beginning as an older version of himself, remembering back to the time the group had their adventure. Gordie's best friend is Chris who comes from a dysfunctional family with some members having criminal records and others as alcoholics. Chris longs to have the type of family support Gordie has and would like to go to college someday.
Another member of the group is Vern, who is somewhat overweight and often teased by other boys. For the most part, Vern has an easy going personality, although he is a bit on the timid side. Teddy is the fourth member of the group who often exhibits a violent side. Teddy has an abusive father who once burned Teddy's ear on a stove burner. Some of the groups adventures include trying to make their way through a junk yard guarded by a very mean dog and walking through a stream filled with leaches. The boys also have to contend with the older teens who are also on their way to discover the dead body.