Brent Bishop, the main character, does not interact well with others at the beginning of the story. His family has moved around a lot, and Brent, constantly trying to fit in with his peers, is so concerned with trying "to impress without being made fun of" that he can never just be himself (Chapter 1). His sensitivity to how others perceive him is so great that, after being humiliated at a party, he becomes suicidal, and causes the accident that kills Lea Zamora. Brent's mission of restitution, when he travels around the country alone to set up whirligigs at Lea's mother's request, turns into a journey of self-discovery. He has time to think, and to interact with people who are not part of the high school scene, people like the would-be artist in Maine who "put important things first and left trivialities for last" (Chapter 9). During his odyssey, Brent finds maturity and an awareness of his own identity, and the reader is left with the sense that his ability to interact with others will be improved when he returns home.