Eddie’s experiences are both similar and different from those of a typical teenager. The teenage years are troubled by issues with friendships, family, work, and relationships. There are the feelings of insecurity, the self-doubts, the wishing for the future.
Having grown up in a tough neighborhood, Eddie has learned to be self-sufficient and strong. He does odd-jobs to make a living and lives on his own in a roach-infested apartment, since his mother has moved away. While there are young men and women whose lives are similar to Eddie’s, it is safe to say that the typical teenager does not face such conditions. Many teenagers hold jobs while attending school to further their future goals, but they have parents or a family to provide for them. Eddie has dropped out of college and currently paints sidewalk curbs or takes on any work he can find to make a few dollars. “I was down to nickels and dimes in my ashtray at home.” The teen whose family is financially unstable can relate to Eddie’s plight. In addition, the few who need to support themselves will connect to Eddie’s constant hunger and desperate need to find any job. The one who stays in college and does not need to worry about obtaining money to buy food cannot quite understand.
Additionally, the typical teen does not need to deal with gangs, although they are prevalent in many neighborhoods. Eddie tries to stay clear of gang life, but he still must worry about staying alive. Constantly looking over his shoulder, Eddie cautiously goes about his life knowing that Angel or Samuel are waiting for him. This kind of fear for one’s life is not something that most people must face at the age of 19.
Eddie does face issues that most teenagers will face at one point or another. His interest in girls surfaces throughout the book, but his mind is too preoccupied to pursue a real relationship. His friendships place him in awkward positions at times. For instance, he must decide what to do about his cousin’s murder. He was close to Jesus but he does not want to seek revenge. While the typical teenager does not face such serious decisions about avenging murder, he will face choices in peer pressure. Eddie is constantly pushed to make this choice, and he stays strong in his decision not to get involved. He tells Angel: “He’s gone. You can’t bring him back.” He only confronts Angel when he feels he has no other options left.
Eddie thinks: “My eyes were raw, my soul trampled by bad luck and bad luck’s brother, hard times.” Overall, the typical teenager does not have such a dismal outlook on his own life.