John ("My father named me after a toilet!") wrestles with the certainty that no one really knows him -- not in his miserable home, and certainly not at school. It's true that no one can guess his hidden thoughts, which are hilarious, razor-sharp observations about lust, love, tubas, algebra, everything. And then there's his home: his father ran off years ago, so he's being raised by his mother, who works long hours, and by her boyfriend, whom John calls "the man who is not and never will be my father." This man is his enemy, an abusive disciplinarian who seems to want to kill John and, in a horrible final confrontation, nearly succeeds.