Eddie is attempting to pull himself out of a life of poverty and crime but the circumstances he lives in keep drawing him back in.
When he was growing up, Eddie got into some trouble. He was headed down the same path as many people who live in the barrio where he lives. However, he knows that he wants more for himself. One thing that drives him to want a better life is how many people around him have died—either from criminal situations or other dangers. He also doesn't want to end up in jail like other people he knows.
The trouble comes when the circumstances and people around him keep trying to drag him back into a life of crime. His cousin was murdered and people around him expect him to avenge a person who he cared very little about. For example, his aunt leaves him a gift at the end of the first chapter to encourage him and pay him for taking care of the person who killed her son.
Eddie has to fight against all these social traps that attempt to keep him down. Ultimately, though, he is able to leave that life by joining the military. At the same time, he knows that the people he's grown up with are pulling away from him and that he's losing those connections as he gains...
a happier and safer life.