In literature, tone is the author's attitude towards the story or subject-matter. Look for words, style, and voice that represent how the author is trying to convey a message to the reader. Since the story is written from Max's point of view, the narrating voice is his and the way he describes things is just like that of a young teenager. For example, Max lives in his grandparents' basement because his father is in jail and his mother is dead. His life seems very dark and depressing. The setting also seems dark. Max describes his basement bedroom as the down under because of how dark it is and how it is constructed:
"I'm still living in the basement, my own private down under, in the little room Grim built for me there. Glued up this cheap paneling, right? It sort of buckles away from the concrete cellar walls, a regular ripple effect, but do I complain about the crummy paneling, or the rug that smells like low tide? I do not. Because I like it in the down under" (5).
The author's tone shows a setting built by inexpensive things, but Max is happy nonetheless. The style and voice shows that money isn't an issue because he can be happy anywhere as long as he has a place to call his own. Therefore, the tone of voice shows that Max is happy with his living circumstances even if the accommodations are rich. The reader can take away the author's purpose through this positive tone that money isn't everything and a person can be happy in whatever place he can call his own.
Throughout the story, the author's tone can be understood through the positive voice of Kevin as he encourages Max to do more than he has courage for. Kevin's tone can be sarcastic and rude at times, but it only shadows the deep appreciation and love he has for Max. Tone can be heard through Gram's loving words, as well. She comforts Max and worries about him which shows her love and concern for him as well. Again, look for how words are used to convey a message while also analyzing from which characters they are coming, and you can determine the tone. Overall, the tone of the story might show dark external and internal conflicts, but it also sheds light on hope and love as the characters strive to overcome their dark struggles.