The Wentworths are basically the embodiment of the emotionally distant, negligent, socialite parents stereotype. They are always either working or pursuing their own interests with little to no regard for what James is up to. In fact, the only evidence we have that they actually even like their son James is the fact that his mom makes him see a therapist (to make sure his sexual identity isn't based on their preferences).
Their parenting is so bad it even enrages Mrs. McConnell, who seems pretty even-keeled the rest of the time:
James's parents are lawyers at a firm on Wall Street. They work even more than Mom and Dad do, but not because they need the money. Mr. Wentworth is from one of those families that haven't spent the whole trust fund yet. Mom says Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth are not qualified to be people, let alone fit to be parents. Dad says they are probably good lawyers and Mom shouldn't bad-mouth James's parents in front of him. (3.6)
Them's fighting words from Mom, which really says something.
We never get to meet James's half-sisters from his father's previous marriage, but we can't help picturing them like Cinderella's ugly stepsisters:
His essay is about the summer he stayed with the Coven at a house in Nantucket. The house had been his father's before he lost it to the first Mrs. Wentworth in the divorce settlement. James was nine that summer, and his parents were on a six-week tour of Asia. Each sister let him know how she held his mother responsible for breaking up her parents' marriage. (10.50)
Sounds like a pleasant summer vacation… if you enjoy emotional torture.
Adena Cohen is one of Ellen's new friends at school (well, once Ellen relaxes enough to make friends):
Adena is new this year too, but she knows who everyone is and she is always in a good mood. (4.9)
She also, according to Link, has gay parents, which makes her quite intriguing to Ellen.
Laurel is the younger sister of Polly (Link's girlfriend) and also one of Ellen's friends.
Polly Keller is Link's girlfriend. Well, in name, anyway. She seems nice enough, and at times we kind of feel badly for her because she obviously thinks Link is the cat's meow, but their relationship might be a bit more one-sided than she knows.
"Hi, it's Polly Keller calling. May I please speak to Link?"
And she does. For hours. Judging by my brother's side of the conversation, he can't get a word in edgewise. Or he simply can't be bothered to comment on what she has to say. (7.9-10)
It will forever be a mystery whether Link is dating her because he wants to or because of his father's bribery. Either way, poor girl doesn't know what she's gotten into.
Ms. Detert is Ellen's French teacher, and we love her because she actually applauds Ellen when she catches her reading Jane Eyre in class.
As Link's math teacher, Ms. Nolan really has her work cut out for her. She's the unfortunate soul who has to inform his parents that he turned in his exams blank.
Helena is James's piano teacher who ends up teaching Link the piano, instead. She seems like she's really got the boys figured out:
"You're kidding," James says. "Helena used to say there was no point in perfect technique if I didn't feel the music."
"She tells me there's no point in playing music if I can't execute it properly."
They laugh. (14.49-51)
Yup, that's Link and James's problems in a nutshell. Ha.
Dr. Koch specializes in treating high-strung certified geniuses for things like performance anxiety and other issues really smart kids deal with. Although some of his advice seems questionable (why does Link have to give up running?), he does help Link figure some stuff out, like the fact that he's fluent in French.
When James was only fifteen he slept with Douglas Peters, an up-and-comer at Mr. Wentworth's law firm. James refers to him as "The Weapon" because, as he says, "If I were to tell my father, it would be as bad as if I shot him" (18.20). So yeah, seems like an appropriate nickname.