Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 322

Most of the characters in Facing Up are familiar character types. The protagonist, Dave Jacoby, is a conservative young man with a stable family life and parents he considers overprotective. A typical high school junior, Dave's main concerns as the story begins are girls, cars, and parties. A sympathetic hero,...

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Most of the characters in Facing Up are familiar character types. The protagonist, Dave Jacoby, is a conservative young man with a stable family life and parents he considers overprotective. A typical high school junior, Dave's main concerns as the story begins are girls, cars, and parties. A sympathetic hero, Dave is the only character in the story to show any real growth. Like most teenagers, he is quick to lay blame, either on others or himself, when bad things happen. His major discovery is that, while one must take responsibility for one's actions, being an adult means learning to accept failure and go on living, and to live with the possibility that some events are accidents for which no one can be blamed.

Dave's friend Jep is a worldly and adventurous charmer. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his mother, who is frequently absent from their apartment. Dave envies Jep's freedom and independence, and though never stated, it is apparent that Jep envies Dave's more "normal" lifestyle. Susan Scherra and Nan Tobin, the two main female characters, are disappointing in their lack of development.

Susan is a sensation seeker who shows little true emotion. She seems intent on fulfilling her selfish desires without regard to others' feelings. Nan is a more sympathetic character; nevertheless, Brancato never fully explores the potential complexities she presents as the daughter of divorced parents whose own lifestyles force her to move across country to be with either of them.

While none of the adults in the story are realistically portrayed, and Dave's parents are little more than cardboard characters, this might not be a problem for the young adult reader who often has little interest in the point of view of adults in circumstances such as those described in the novel. Brancato deftly sketches the Jacobys as concerned parents who want to help their children grow to maturity by setting realistic boundaries for them.

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