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Fifteen-year-old C.J. is a friend of Jesse's, though they haven't known each other all that long. The two teens met through church, and they're also both artists—C.J. plays the organ and the piano, but his passion is jazz music, which he frequently practices and experiments with. The only thing that seems to be in the way of his dreams is his overprotective mother, who worries that C.J. won't be able to make a living if he focuses on music.
In many ways, C.J. is Rise's opposite. He's a new friend, while Rise is an old friend; and he's fun to be around, where Rise is increasingly awful. C.J. is also straightforward instead of cagey like Rise: "Whatever C.J. was thinking he would say" (1.74), Jesse tells us. Since Jesse's really struggling with his inability to get a solid read on Rise, this quality of C.J.'s really matters.
The differences just keep coming between Rise and C.J., too. For instance, Rise valorizes violent death, but C.J. takes a more practical view: "It don't matter if he's looking down from heaven or not," he tells the other characters. "No matter how you look at it, he's dead" (13.8). Dead is dead, and C.J. has no intention of getting that way. Still, like Jesse, C.J. feels pulled into Rise's criminal activities almost despite himself. (For more on this, swing by Jesse's page elsewhere in this section.)
Though C.J.'s friendship with Jesse is an important relationship in the book, we don't really know that much about the man himself. "He wasn't that easy a guy to know, because he never talked about himself," Jesse tells us. "All he ever wanted to do was play his music and be left alone" (3.23). Pretty much anything we can say about him is guesswork. There are intimations he is gay—C.J. says he doesn't want kids and then gets really weird about it, and he gets really upset when Little Man hits him with a gay slur—but the book doesn't give us anything concrete to go on.