(Novels for Students)

One of the prevalent themes in the book involves how young people determine their identity as they come of age. For Willie Weaver, he identifies himself as an athlete first and foremost. Because of his talent on the baseball field and the relative ease with which he is able to master certain sports, Willie couldn’t image living his life any other way. Sports are an essential element to his life; it’s how he relates to his father, William Sr., who was a star football player in his day, his friends, who are also his teammates, and his girlfriend, who shares Willie’s love of competition. Ironically, it is a sporting activity that takes away his physical abilities. When Willie loses power over his body and his ability to play sports in a waterskiing accident, his whole world falls apart as he can no longer relate to the people in his life. If he’s not the star pitcher for the baseball team, then who is he? Willie watches as each relationship in his life suffers because of his unwillingness to accept the consequences of the accident or to make any attempt to recover. It is only when Willie travels to a place where no one knows him or who he was that he is able to find the freedom to discover who he really is.

Throughout the novel, Willie’s resilience is tested several times, beginning with the accident that leaves him physically disabled. While he survives the accident, he struggles greatly with the consequences of his disability and must deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts that follow. Ultimately, Willie believes he must escape his surroundings in order to continue his life and then faces a number of challenges as a result of leaving those familiar surroundings. Once he arrives in Oakland, he suffers a violent gang attack that leaves him beaten, bloody, and broke. Yet once again, he finds the strength to survive by striking a deal with a man who offers him a place to stay free of charge. Finally, Willie’s...

(The entire section is 814 words.)