Jimmy is certainly a very troubled fourteen-year-old teenager, as the book makes clear. The majority of his problems revolve around his strained relationship with his father, Crab. Jimmy's father at the novel's opening seeks to right what he has done wrong and tries to develop a closer relationship with his son and also clear his name for the crime that he was accused of so to help Jimmy believe in him and in his innocence. Crab therefore embarks on a journey with Jimmy to find the truth of what really happened concerning the crime that Crab was accused of. The account we are given shows the way in which Jimmy initially vacillates between hate and pity of this man who is almost a stranger to him.
In addition, it is clear from the text that Crab decides to come back to Jimmy at a point where he is facing significant difficulties in life. Jimmy is experiencing complete exhaustion, both mental and physical, at school. His studies are not going well in spite of his intelligence and he is beginning to cut class. In addition, he is copying the attitude of his peers, who do not take responsibility for what they do. Jimmy, in spite of the efforts of those around him and especially of Mama Jean, the woman who has reared him, looks as if he is moving towards a very grim and hopeless future without opportunities. These are some of the issues that Jimmy faces.