Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The narrative opens in the hospital ward where the main characters live. The action begins to rise when Barney Snow, the protagonist, finds a balsa wood replica of an MG in the junkyard. Barney later decides that the last ride he has promised Mazzo will take place in the imitation MG. The action then moves rapidly to the climax, which occurs when Mazzo, Barney, and Billy get the MG up to the roof of the hospital. There, as Mazzo lies dying, they wheel the Bumblebee off the roof; no need for them to ride it—"they didn't need to fly. The Bumblebee would fly for them." Time stands still; space is frozen. For Barney "the Bumblebee never stopped flying." It is the enduring culmination of their effort to extract victory from defeat, optimism from despair, joy from sorrow, love and loyalty from isolation and separation. Even as the story closes and Barney lies blinking, fighting to overcome the pain that overwhelms his body, he triumphantly remembers this victory.

A subplot to this main narrative is the relationship between Barney and Cassie Mazzofono, Mazzo's twin sister. When Cassie comes to the hospital to visit her brother, Barney is immediately attracted to this beautiful blonde girl. He cements his relation to her by agreeing to give her precise reports on her brother's health. Out of love for her, he checks on Mazzo constantly and seeks medical reports from nurses. Cassie becomes even more aware of Barney's goodness when she discovers that he has rebuilt the MG for her brother. With that revelation, Cassie kisses Barney, in "the one great moment of his life."

The experimental hospital's "terminal patients" include Ronson, a former Golden Gloves champion; Allie Roon, spasmodic and stammering; Billy the Kidney, confined to a wheelchair; bedridden Alberto Mazzofono (Mazzo), once rich and handsome but now wasting away and dying; and Barney J. Snow, who, for much of the novel, does not think he is terminally ill. Nurse Bascam, herself terminally ill, oversees these patients, and Doctors Croft and Lakendorp treat the young patients.


(The entire section is 847 words.)