Cincinnati is the setting for Draper's work. Modern Cincinnati is shown to be a background of diversity on face value. It is a setting in which people of all races mingle and supposedly assimilate to one another. The veneer of diversity masks the racial tensions amongst young people, confirmed with the presence of gangs such as the Devil Dogs.
Within this veneer, Romiette is the first of the two main characters to whom the reader is introduced. The surface reading of Romiette is that she has everything. Her parents are successful as a business owner and a news anchor. She does well in school and she has "it together." Yet, under this veneer, Romiette is waiting for something. She seeks someone with whom to share her life and her aspirations and this is lacking in the world of Cincinnati adolescents. While the veneer of Cincinnati is supposed to be comforting, it is anything but for Julio. Coming from the warmth of Texas, Julio finds the weather as one of the first challenges he faces. He also experiences the seedy underbelly that exists under the veneer of what Cincinnati has to offer. Julio recognizes that Cincinnati is not as appealing as it has been presented to be as he becomes victimized by the Devildogs and racial intimidation. Just as Romiette finds the setting to be lacking in fulfillment, Julio experiences the same realization about Cincinnati.