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We meet Mr. Montgomery, a.k.a. Little Man, at the beginning of the book when he tries to join the Counts. Everyone thinks he's too young, so he doesn't make the cut, and then we don't see him again until the end of the book—when he shoots and kills Rise. Does he do it because he is working with the Diablos? Is it because he's mad about not getting into the Counts? We'll never know.
Rise lives with his mother and his grandparents. Rise's mother took care of Jesse when he was little, which is why Jesse and Rise have been friends for so long. We don't know too much about these folks except that they seem nice. Oh, and we also know they don't have much money, and that Rise's grandma was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Since she's a parental figure in his life, this may add to his sense of urgency about getting ahead in the world—he might feel he needs to be able to take care of himself.
An important member of Rise's family is his father, whom we never meet. Rise has met him, but his father has never been a big part of his life. Through Jesse's flashbacks, we get the sense that the absence of his father was really hard on Rise when he was little.
Tania is Jesse's fourteen-year-old girlfriend. Though she's a year younger than Jesse, he recognizes that she's more mature than he is: "I knew she was about twenty hundred years older than me in some ways" (11.51), he tells us. Tania recently dropped out of school, and now she's working as a prostitute (although Jesse doesn't realize that last part). When she tells him, "I'm just doing that one-day-at-a-time shuffle" (11.71) and tears up, we get the sense that she doesn't exactly like being a sex worker.
Jesse, C.J., Rise, and Mason are all members of the Counts, a nonviolent group for teenage boys. Jesse tells us that "back in the day, before there were Bloods, Crips, and other gangs, there were a lot of black social clubs" (2.1), and the Counts were one of them. We get to meet, but not really know, some of the other guys in the club, including Benny, Calvin, and Gun.
The Diablos are a violent uptown gang who Rise has engaged in a turf war. According to Sidney Rock, they "are a bunch of guys who aren't going anywhere and don't have a thing to lose" (18.20). Because of Rise's shady dealings, the Counts are unwittingly pulled into the turf war, and are even targeted by the Diablos in a drive-by shooting.
Mason is a nineteen-year-old who poses as a seventeen-year-old in order to join the Counts, which is supposed to be a nonviolent club. Problem is, Mason's totally violent: "The dude is definitely on a 24-7 hostility tour," Jesse tells us; "The way he sees things there's him and there's the rest of the world" (2.3). Yup, Mason spells trouble.
Before the book begins, Mason has been arrested for the armed robbery of a shop. From jail, he sends word that he wants the Counts to rough up the shop owner so he won't testify in court. The Counts aren't on board with that plan at all, except for Rise… which is the first sign that he's trying to turn the Counts into a different kind of club.
Joe Charles is the Givens's family lawyer. He goes down to the police station when Jesse is taken in for questioning, and that's about it.