Richard is a misfit who can often be found with his best friend, Emily. They spend their time walking around town, stealing license plates and street signs, and smoking cigarettes at the sand dunes.
When it comes to courage, Richard has little. He often fantasizes about what he wishes he could do to the bullies in his life. When bad tempers turn these fantasies into reality, Richard will have to find forgiveness for his mom, his father, and himself or die trying.
Max is Richards father who has been in prison his whole life due to a hit and run that involved alcohol and the death of a teenage girl. Caren has visited Max during his time in prison, updating him on Richard. Max wants Caren to bring Richard to see him, but Caren and Charles think it’s a bad idea to introduce him to that environment.
When Max is free, he moves in with Caren and Richard, where he meets him for the first time. Richard doesn’t know who he is and this infuriates Max, making him turn to alcohol and violence. Caren receives the brunt of this due to the resentment Max has for her. Max loves and wants to be a father figure to Richard, but through a series of sad circumstances, he cannot and never will be what Richard needs.
Richard's mother, Caren, is a conflicted and dependent woman who cannot be alone. Before Richard was born, she cheated on Charles, her boyfriend, with Max, Richard’s father. Despite this, Charles decides to stay in Caren’s life and help raise Richard.
After 10 years, Charles ends up leaving when Caren won't marry him. When Max comes home from prison, the once stable household begins to crumble. Caren loves Richard more then anything and when his disappearance becomes more and more severe, her motherly instincts take over. She will stop at nothing to find her son.
Charles is Caren’s ex boyfriend and the man who helped raise Richard. Richard's mother, Caren, cheated on Charles and Richard is a product of that infidelity. Despite that, Charles really wants to try and make it work with Caren and be Richard's legal guardian.
Over the next 10 years, Caren decides she can't commit her life to Charles and he leaves. Charles and Richard were close and when Richard finds out he is moving to New Orleans, he is heartbroken.
Emily is Richard's next-door neighbor and best friend. She comes from a more put together family than Richard, but, most of the time, she is the bad influence.
Emily witnesses first hand the abusive home life that Richard lives in. Emily gets harassed and labeled as a slut in school due to her older sister's bad reputation. Richard never has the bravery to stand up to the people who ridicule her; thus, Emily endures the abuse.
Jamaal is the product of living in a gang environment. His family has all fallen victim to gang violence and he is now an orphan living within that community. This community uses kids to peddle drugs. We are first introduced to Jamaal before Richard meets him and we get a glimpse of that home life. Richard and Jamaal’s stories collide when Richard runs from the cops and hides in the gang’s garage.
Jamaal finds out that Richard is a runaway and when a gang fight breaks out, he rescues Richard but gets shot in the process. Jamaal tells Richard about himself and how he lost his parents and wants to be good. He want’s to follow Richard to New Orleans, but dies before they can make it. Jamaal is Richard's opposite. Everything Richard takes for granted, Jamaal holds so tightly to. Jamaal puts Richard's life into perspective.