Maurice Anderson (Reese)

Reese is the novel’s fourteen-year-old protagonist and narrator. The son of an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, Reese’s only joy in life is his nine-year-old sister, Icy. When Reese begins a work-release program at a senior citizens’ nursing home, he has already served twenty-two months in Progress. Reese strongly desires to be different from the many teens in Harlem, but he struggles with feeling stuck. It is only when he begins to see himself as someone who can make a worthwhile contribution to his sister, job, and friends that he realizes he is a survivor and somewhat of a hero.

Mr. Hooft

Mr. Hooft is a resident at Evergreen whom Reese meets on one of his early days at the facility. While Mr. Hooft seems curious about the young man who comes to clean his room, he is also very blunt with Reese. He is a Dutch-American who grew up in a Japanese prison camp in occupied Java. Mr. Hooft does not have much sympathy for others and does not understand the poor choices Reese has made. However, as Mr. Hooft continues to challenge Reese about who he is and who he wants to be, he grows fond of the teen and has the opportunity to befriend Reese and to rid himself of some of his prejudiced tendencies. In the end, when Mr. Hooft passes away, Reese is the only one whom Mr. Hooft values enough to bequeath his cherished silver soap dish to.

Isis Anderson (Icy)

Icy is Reese’s nine-year-old sister and serves as his motivation for staying out of trouble in the future. She is ambitious, creative, and observant. Reese tries to shield his sister from what life is truly like at Progress. Icy is intelligent and knows the importance of staying positive for her brother’s sake. Like several of Myers’s other younger-sibling characters in his previous novels, Icy unconsciously provides her older sibling with a reason to be different from most of his peers.


Depak (Toon) is the son of Indian immigrants. He is the youngest of the novel’s characters, and Reese feels the responsibility...

(The entire section is 868 words.)