Autobiography of My Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers describes life in Harlem, an impoverished area in New York City where the author himself grew up. It realistically describes the culture of drugs and gang warfare in which young male teenagers are immersed and the way violence and murder mar their lives.
The opening of the book, in which Rise and Jesse are attending the funeral of a fellow teenager who was killed in a drive-by shooting foreshadows the end of the novel, setting an atmosphere of senseless violence in the local environment that leads to many men dying young.
At one point Rise tells Jesse "You’ve probably got the best brain on the block, man, ... Maybe I’ll hire you to do my biography’” (p. 28). This suggests the main character flaw that leads to Rise's involvement in drug dealing and his eventual murder, namely his need to be someone important and have immediate gratification, rather than working gradually towards more modest goals.
Finally, unlike C.J. and Jesse, who are focused on creative pursuits, Rise chooses to get involved in dealing drugs, which leads to his murder.