Conrad Jarrett, a troubled, suicidal teen, struggles in the transition from childhood to adulthood, searching for his identity. Throughout the novel, it is apparent that Con’s self-image improves. Seeing psychologist Dr. Berger plays a significant role in Conrad’s self-development. At first, Con sees himself as an un-controlling person. Feeling responsible for his brother’s death, and does not like to talk about Buck. In his first session with Dr. Berger, Con tells the doctor that he desires control. If he gains control, his reasons, his family and friends would not have to worry about him. Wanting to please everyone and fearing vulnerability, he refuses to allow himself to feel or express emotion.
Seeing Dr. Berger weekly, Conrad’s self-image improves gradually. Calvin, Conrad’s father, notices a positive change in his son’s behavior. For example, Con makes the decision of choosing the family’s Christmas tree. Although this decision may not seem very significant to most people, this was a colossal step for Conrad. In the past, he had tremendous difficulty in making mundane decisions, like ordering from the menu at a restaurant. Con also starts to feel emotion. He complains that these feelings are lousy and make him feel terrible, but he recognizes the importance of feeling. Overcoming the obstacle of blocking out memories of his brother, Conrad begins to feel at peace with himself and stops fearing the memories. .
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Realizing his life lacked organization, he decides to make a list of self-improvements he deems important, including making new friends. By quitting swimming, Conrad distances himself from his old friends. Also on the list, Con applies for a job at the library, but they are not hiring. However, a lady outside the library called him “good-looking.” This comment boosts his self-image. .
Conrad soon builds up the courage to ask Jeannine on a date. This is a sign of him becoming more social and developing a sense of confidence.