Themes of hopelessness and hope are central to the book. In Chapter 5, Junior's teacher Mr. P tells him,
"You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation...you have to leave the rez forever".
Junior struggles with themes of identity throughout the story. When he goes to school off the reservation, he
"became something less than less than less than Indian" (Chapter 12).
An outsider at his new school, Junior is villified by the Indians for trying to succeed in life. In Chapter 18, Junior tells Gordy,
"The people at home...a lot of them call me an apple...red on the outside and white on the inside".
Gordy then astutely observes,
"Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community".
Junior is at first suspicious of his white peers at Reardan High School, and in fact they torment him at first. Despite their own personal prejudices, however, they are good people at heart, and Junior discovers that
"If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing" (Chapter 17).
Junior finally realizes that he is going to be okay when he understands that he is not alone in his search for a dream, and that he belongs to many "tribes" -
"the tribe of American immigrants...basketball players...small-town kids...poverty...beloved sons" (Chapter 28).
It is only when he can accept the many facets of his own identity that Junior is able to look forward to the future with hope.