by Joni Bodart
Flinn, Alex. HarperCollins, 2001. $15.95. 263p. ISBN: 0-06029198-2. Realistic fiction. Reading level: YHS. Interest level:
YHS, OHS. Sex education; English; Ethics; Creative writing.
Dating and social life; violence; abuse, physical; therapy; selfknowledge; bullying; family relationships; anger; racism; abuse,
mental; prejudice; peer pressure; writing; friendship; love; abuse,
sexual; justice; legal system; fear; school; sports; rites of
passage; problem parents; secrets; lying and deceitfulness;
Nick Andreas: At sixteen, he's ordered into therapy for abusing his girlfriend; he used to have the
reputation of being one of the coolest guys in school.
Caitlin McCourt: Nick's girlfriend, formerly plump, still harbors low self-esteem.
Deborah Lehman: the judge who hears the case between Caitlin and Nick.
Mr. Andreas: Nick's only parent, his abusive father, a wealthy self-made man who constantly
tells Nick he's a loser.
Mrs. McCourt: Caitlin's mother.
Tom Carter: He's Nick's best friend, but he doesn't know about what Nick's father does to him, or
why he abused Caitlin.
Mario Ortega: He teaches Nick's family violence class.
Kelly Steele, Leo Sotolongo, Tyrone/Tiny Johnston, A.J./Psycho, Ray DeLeon: members of
Nick's family violence class.
Mr. and Mrs. Carter: Tom's parents who treat Nick like one of the family because he's there so
much, but who are not accepting of anyone outside their social circle.
Liana Castro: A girl Tom dates, despite his parents' disapproval.
Saint O'Connor: Star quarterback, Tom's new best friend and Caitlin's new boyfriend.
Miss Higgins: Nick's honors English teacher, who sees more of Nick than he knows he's
Derek Wayne: He's in choir with Caitlin and is smart and geeky.
The Nick everyone saw was one of the really cool kids at school. Rich, popular, smart,
handsome, he played on the football team and drove a classic '67 red Mustang convertible. He
had a charmed life--everyone wanted to be Nick.
The Nick no one saw was an angry, resentful loser, who frequently missed school when his
father's abuse got too obvious. His father may have given Nick his car, but he also told his son,
over and over, that he was a failure, a loser, never good enough at anything. Nick hasn't seen his
mother since he was five, and he and his father live alone with a series of housekeepers. Nick
avoids his father as much as possible, and worries about what will set him off.
Then just after school starts, he sees Caitlin, and thinks "dream girl." His friend Tom helps him
meet her, and they start dating. Nick is in love for the first time, but the only examples he has of
love are the memories of his parents. Which Nick will he show Caitlin, the one everyone knows,
or the one that no one does?
MAJOR THEMES AND IDEAS
-- Hitting people, even once, no matter what the reason, is wrong.
-- Sometimes it's a good thing when life kicks you in the butt so you'll take a good look at the
messes you've made.
-- Exploring the past brings out feelings that cause us to become insecure, controlling, or violent.
-- What happens to you at home is the cornerstone of your other relationships.
-- Control freaks are frequently also violent.
-- People interpret your behavior differently from the way you do, and may see patterns you are
denying or blind to.
-- Abusive behavior is both physical and mental.
-- It's important to acknowledge your emotions, and find positive ways of dealing with them.
-- You're not a loser because someone calls you that, over and over. You become a loser when
you tell that to yourself, over and over. So, figure out how to turn off both those voices, and be a
-- You can't respect yourself if you're letting someone beat you up, whether they use their words,
or their fists, or both.
BOOK REPORT IDEAS
1. Discuss the meaning of the title, and the scenes in the book that helped you find that meaning.