This beautifully written classic is a poignant story about the power and beauty of friendship. Jess is lonely, angry, and depressed in the beginning of the book, and his creative talents are not appreciated at home. Leslie loves Jess for Jess, and as a result, he gains courage and confidence. Jess's teacher also contributes to his growing self-esteem, paying him special attention, encouraging him, and taking him to a museum. By the end of the book, Jess is happier and an understanding young man. Spirituality is another theme in the book. Leslie's parents are agnostic and Jess's parents quit going to church all but twice a year. A subtle point is made about looking within to find the true meaning of faith on a personal level. Together, Jess and Leslie overcome the school bully. Jess also has a sweet relationship with his little sister. Imagination and creativity are celebrated. Language is mild (d-mn, h-ll). Leslie dies in an accident, and the shock and sadness of the death is wrenching. Jess works through his grief and comes out a stronger person in the end.