The book is mostly told in flashback, and its hard to know for sure what exactly changed Rusty's life. Rusty's life seems almost predestined for him. As a child who was once left alone in the house for three days while his mother was gone and his father was on a drinking binge (chapter 7), and now lives with a detached father in a home with no structure those lessons, or the subconscious of them in Rusty's mind, most certainly changed his life. These family issues, along with Rusty's fighting, dropping out of school, and finally, of course, the death of Motorcycle Boy lead to life of misery, one that Rusty cannot (or tries not to) escape . This is evidenced by the last chapter, his conversation with Steve. Rusty James just wants to forget.