In the beginning of the book John and Lorraine are in the tenth grade and they are very self centered. John makes up stories to get out of things such as school book reports and fakes illness to get his parents to give in to him. The two also plot to get some money from Mr. Pignati by coming up with a scheme that they are trying to raise money.
And John lies to his mother and father. He told them one time that he was hearing voices from outer space, and he thought creatures were going to come for him some night, so if they heard any strange noises coming from his room would they please call the police. (23)
After befriending Mr. Pignati and he is hospitalized the two decide to have a party in his home. The party gets out of control. One of their friends tries to steal from Mr. Pignati and John fights him. People tear his wife's dress and destroy a pig that he had given to his wife. The kids are upset that they had harmed him. They realize the error and how they had violated his trust and how deeply they had hurt him.
When they visit Bo Bo, the monkey, at the end of the book, Mr. Pignati dies after learning Bo Bo had died. John then recognizes how sad it was for a man to have only the apes to visit and talk to in his life. The kids have begun to be less egocentric and to be concerned about the feelings of others.
Both teen shad basically put blame for all the short comings in their lives on everyone else, but through knowing Mr. Pignati and thinking back on their own actions they learned:
Our life would be what we made of it-nothing more, nothing less. (149)