Because of its intentionally ambiguous characters and structure, it is not easy to construct a clear analysis of this novel. A detailed attempt to solve its mystery completely may lead to even more questions and confusion. Even Cormier's responses to readers do not fully clarify matters.
What the reader does "know" is that Adam Farmer believes that he is riding his bicycle to Rutterburg, Vermont, to rescue his father; that he has learned about a past life of which he has been unaware; and that he is involved with some institution interested in learning more about his memory.
Given the ambiguity of the plot, the book's mysterious characters demand careful attention—particularly Adam, who the reader later learns is really Paul Delmonte. Assuming that Adam/Paul is both the bicycle rider and the boy under interrogation or therapy, it is reasonable to deduce that he suffers from emotional problems or even mental illness. At some points he seems innocent and vulnerable, at others, mistrustful and defiant. Regardless, his actions indicate that he is pitted against a system of shadowy individuals or organizations, possibly the government or organized crime. It is less clear, however, whether Adam is a pawn in some game or if he is knowingly out on his own trying to outwit his adversaries and rescue his father from some sinister situation.
In a way, Adam's exploits with Amy Hertz, called "Numbers," prove his capacity to work within a conspiracy. But these childish pranks hardly compare to the ominous world of the strange Mr. Grey and the even more puzzling Brint. Readers familiar with Cormier's fiction will...
(The entire section is 672 words.)