We know what you're thinking—how can a book be both irreverent and thoughtful at the same time? Isn't that like being "uplifting" and "depressing"? If Rafe doesn't take things seriously, then how can he really carefully consider what's going on in his life?
But we promise: it totally works. That's because Rafe acts differently at different times. Sometimes he's busy being a rule-breaker by chewing gum in class, running around in his underwear, and generally sticking it to the man. Other times, he does think a lot about his family troubles and how his actions affect his mom, and he feels truly bad about the grief he's causing her.
Sure, Rafe uses his rule-breaking to have a little fun and push his problems away, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know those problems are there. At the end of the day, Rafe's gotta figure out how to mesh these two parts of himself if he's ever gonna make it to seventh grade. Fingers crossed.