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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326

Hornby's novel explores realities of life, personal journeys, compassion, love, and growth. The message of the novel focuses on how people need relationships in life to continue to grow, and every one needs help from others at times.

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At the beginning of the novel, readers meet Marcus, a twelve-year-old boy being raised by a depressed, single mother (Fiona), who has just moved to London. Socially awkward, Marcus immediately struggles to fit in at school with others and experiences bullying and harassment. He also has to grow up too quickly, as he does not have typical parental support and feels responsible for his mother's happiness.

Fiona, Marcus' mother, loves Marcus greatly but is incapable of truly caring for him or herself, as she struggles with mental illness. She and Clive, Marcus' father, have divorced, and Clive does not offer any support as he disappears for years after the divorce.

Will, a single, thirty-six year old, is immature, selfish, and irresponsible; he is only interested in shallow, sexual relationships with women when the novel begins. However, he strikes up a friendship with Marcus and eventually becomes a support for both Marcus and Fiona as he helps them. The novel traces the maturing process and connections between Will and Marcus as they both change, grow, and find happiness. Will transforms from a self-centered bachelor to a dependable, caring man.

Marcus seeks help for his mother through his friendship with Will. Marcus is concerned for his mother's well-being and does not want her to hurt herself; he hopes that Will can make her happy by dating her. Eventually, Fiona and Will realize that their friendship and mutual love for Marcus is their bond.

There are other support characters in the novel. For instance, there is Ellie, an older student whom Marcus begins to like and befriend. She is intelligent and rebellious. Also, there is a woman named Rachel with whom Will falls in love. Ali, Rachel's son, is Marcus' age.

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