Some of the main themes of Jack Gantos’s From Norvelt to Nowhere are adventure, identity, and friendship. Jack and Miss Volker, characters from the first book, Dead End in Norvelt, go on a road trip that teaches them a lot about the world. Despite the suspicious characters they encounter and the sometimes scary situations they find themselves in, Jack still finds freedom and happiness on the road. The book thus speaks to the thrill of adventure and ties in with the freedom and fun to be found in embracing coming of age.
Jack also learns a lot about the complexities of identity from Miss Volker. As he learns more about her life, he begins to realize how a person can be both good and bad. Her behavior is often contradictory, and it is a process for Jack to come to terms with this. Throughout the book, he reads comics, including the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a story which Miss Volker relates herself to.
The more Jack learns about and observes Miss Volker, the more he learns about how complex people are, how elaborate their life stories become as they grow older, and how they are not only good or only bad. Learning about Miss Volker like this also teaches him about friendship and how friends can be just as important as family when learning about the world. For instance, his mother did not support him reading comic books, but Miss Volker embraced them and used his love for comics as a way to relate her own stories to him.