Rusty James is a tall fourteen-year-old boy with dark red hair and brown eyes. By the end of the book he becomes color-blind and has a scar on his side from a knife fight.
Other characters in the book seem to think Rusty is nothing special in the way of looks (saying a black cat is more of a "prince" than Rusty) and not very smart.
“Yeah," I said. "And I'm gonna look just like him."
The black cat paused and looked me over.
"No you ain't baby. That cat is a prince, man. He is royalty in exile. You ain't never gonna look like that.”
Rusty admits that he is not very bright, and he focuses his attention on living in the present rather than worrying about the past or the future. Rusty carries a defeatist mentality. When his girlfriend breaks up with him, he assumes he cannot make amends and decides to take his mind off of the matter instead.
Physically, Rusty is large and can hold his own with most of the characters in the book. His best friend is short and has a smaller build. Rusty chooses to smoke and drink, while his best friend doesn't. Rusty doesn't look like his sibling, the Motorcycle Boy (though he wishes he did), other than the fact that they both have red hair. Much of his behavior, like fighting and drinking, seems to be similar to his father and brother, until the end of the book when he decides to break the cycle and stop fighting and drinking.