BRYON DOUGLAS. The narrator of the novel, Bryon tells the story of the collapse of his close friendship with his foster-brother, Mark. Although both boys spend a great deal of time away from home and roaming the streets, looking for trouble (due in part to their dysfunctional, single parent home life), Bryon eventually tires of this scene. His love and loyalty for Mark are strong: He tends to Mark's injuries after a fight and willingly accepts a beating that is meant for Mark. But Bryon begins to change after talking with Mike Chambers in the hospital; Chambers tells him how he is beaten but chooses not to seek revenge. The guilt over how Bryon lives his life increases after his friend Charlie is killed while helping Bryon and Mark. He matures further after he falls in love with Cathy, sees his mother hospitalized, and decides to get a job. But the toughest decision of his life comes when he turns Mark in for drug dealing after his friend, M&M, overdoses on LSD. Bryon questions his own motives for having Mark arrested, but he testifies against him and then visits him in prison. Bryon sees that Mark has changed for the worst, and Mark tells him that their friendship--"that was then, this is now"--is over. In the end, Bryon--having lost both Cathy and Mark--wishes he were young again, when life and its problems seemed so much simpler.
MARK. A boy with a terrible past, Mark is taken in by Bryon's mother after Mark's parents kill themselves during a drunken brawl. Mark loves Bryon like a brother, and he enjoys the gang life they lead during their early teens. But while Bryon seems determined to make a change in his life, Mark prefers the status quo. Mark seems to have little regard for what is right and wrong, and when Bryon begins spending time with Cathy instead of him, Mark becomes jealous. Mark turns to selling drugs, for which he shows no remorse. He grows to hate Bryon after his arrest, and his behavior while in the juvenile detention center is so bad that it appears he will eventually be sent to an adult prison. As Bryon seeks to improve his life and make amends to Mark, Mark never wants to see his friend again, and he seems intent upon destroying himself behind bars.