I can still feel the effects of the meth that me and this kid Branson did last night. It was my first time trying it and it made everything taste aluminum so I didn't feel like eating anything and now I'm totally fucking starving but I already said that right? (1.9)
Amphetamines dull your appetite, so Jamie's hungry after a night on the Greyhound. We learn from the first page of Punkzilla that our narrator is in a mentally, physically, financially unstable place.
I think something's wrong with my hormones P. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm missing a gland. Maybe all that homegrown I smoked back in Cincinnati has permanently damaged me? That's what I get for smoking weed right? (1.17)
Jamie's only kind of joking. Marijuana may not obliterate your glands, but something has to be responsible for the fact that puberty hasn't happened to him yet.
He was huffing glue out of a brown paper bag and trying to call this junior-high girl called Easy Elise on a cell phone he'd just stolen. (5.86)
Jamie sees right away that Branson does drugs and steals, but after being tormented at Buckner, any kind of companionship looks good.
A simple memory suddenly multiplies itself by a thousand and takes over your sleeping life. I've heard that's how acid works. (8.16)
After meeting a girl named Mags with a gorilla on her sweatshirt, Jamie dreams of flying gorillas. Hallucinations are dreams that happen when you're awake, and hallucinogens amplify mundane visual stimuli into flying-gorilla-like proportions.
[…] Lewis scored some weed that came in this little plastic terrarium and then the guy left and we wound up getting really stoned like it was maybe the best weed I've ever smoked in my life. (12.63)
Any escape from reality feels good when you've just been sobbing about your brother's impending death. Even bad weed would have felt like great weed to Jamie that night.
I've been thinking about starting to walk east on Interstate 80. It's a stupid thought I know because a cop would definitely stop me but I'm on my second joke Coke and I'm liable to do anything. (15.50)
Jamie mixes liquor stolen from a hotel mini-bar with a rest stop Coke and ponders bad life decisions. Fortunately, his fear of law enforcement keeps him from getting hit by a semi while stumbling along the highway.
Meth is the last thing I want to be on right now but I do wish I had some of my medication because I'm having trouble focusing P focusing on anything right now is hard so I decided to write you again because it's the only thing that makes me feel better. (19.5)
Kent gives Jamie a cigarette, then acts surprised when Jamie knows how to smoke it. He's giving a runaway kid a smoke out of sympathy, but he's also testing how much he can say and do in Jamie's presence.
He said "So you sobered up yet?" and I told him I was cool and then he asked me why I drank and if I was bored with life and I said maybe a little…(19.21)
Jamie's actually really curious about and engaged with life, but you can only let life kick you in the head so many times before you start looking for an escape.
Halfway through the Sopranos Albertina asked me if I wanted to smoke some pot. She said not to worry and that it was legal because her doctor prescribed it. (19.105)
News flash: It's illegal to smoke without a prescription, even if the girl you're hooking up with has lupus. (Another news flash: The fact that we got to write that sentence is one of the reasons we love YA.)
One time he told me that my hair looked Byzantine […] My Buckner hair had just started to grow out and it was getting wavy so I thought Byzantine meant curly or something. (1.27)
Branson collects (and misuses) vocabulary words. When Jamie looks up "Byzantine," he sees pictures of people in togas, which makes him imagine feeding people grapes and having orgies.
At Buckner there was this Pakistani kid Abdus who they called Bin Laden even though he was fat and could barely do ten push-ups and he was mad short too like five feet two even shorter than me and the real Osama Bin Laden is supposedly like seven feet tall and has anorexia. (5.11)
The white Buckner students, locked away at military school in the Middle of Nowhere, Missouri, automatically associate the new brown kid with the first brown person they can think of—who is, of course, a terrorist. Ugh.
I mean I was glad that she got back into shape or became more fit or whatever but part of me wished she would've gotten fatter just to spite that fucker. (5.22)
One of the ways Jamie's dad beats his mom down is by applying military intimidation tactics when she gains a few pounds. Note to the Major: basic training and your wife's thighs? Two separate things.
She had a lot of peach fuzz on her cheeks and I wondered if her hormones were messed up like maybe she burped a lot or could grow a circus beard. (5.45)
Jamie describes Mags as "pale and skinny," so the peach fuzz on her cheeks could be lanugo, a sign of anorexia.
His hand was big and hairy. Up close he had one of those faces that seems young and old at the same time like a shop teacher or some guy who owns a store where you take broken-down kitchen appliances. (5.53)
What is it about being able to build and/or fix things that would make you look young and old at the same time? We're not sure, but Jamie could be drawing from past experience here. In case you hadn't noticed, there's a fair bit of free association in Punkzilla.
There's this really old lady in the front seat whose one eye keeps leaking. I don't think it's tears it's more like some liquid form of LIFE leaving her. (8.3)
Chronic physical illness can indeed make people look like the living dead; it's one more way life can beat you down. Now go eat your vegetables and visit your ophthalmologist.
[…] there was no real way I could see what I looked like with the mask on but that was sort of an awesome feeling like I wasn't ANYONE for a second like I could be ANYTHING under the mask like a ghost or a wolf boy with a dead bird in my pocket or some green mist. (8.74)
When Jamie steals Sam's backpack, he finds a rubber mask he thinks is supposed to be Keanu Reeves. Putting it on allows him to imagine that he's exempt from the human condition, which is a good way to feel when you've just stolen a little kid's bag.
I swear P he said "Are you a model?" and I said "No why?" and he went "You could be is all. You have that look." (15.28)
Although Jamie's skinny and androgynous, "you could be a model" is a classic rapist/murderer line. Rule number one of being a legit photographer: Never tell anyone they could be a model.
I was like "You think I need a haircut?" and he said "You LIKE lookin' like that?" and I went "Lookin' like what?" I thought he was going to say "Like a girl" but he didn't instead he said "Like a punk" and then I said "But I am a punk" […] (19.26)
Punk is the one constant of Jamie's identity, even if its only physical manifestations are a busted black dye job and an iPod full of Clash tunes.
Even though she was hot for her age she sort of had a sad look on her face like nothing worked out right in her life. (19.41)
Kent's ex-wife, Marty, visibly carries the pain of losing her husband and child, but Jamie is temporarily distracted by the fact that she smells good and has boobs.
She was going to make like three hundred bucks posing for that website too and it's pretty funny because Branson doesn't mind if she gives me or someone else a hand job but he goes ballistic if she starts talking about posing for a website or if you call her Buck Tooth Jenny. (1.36)
It's different for Branson when Buck Tooth Jenny's with Jamie, because Branson knows Jamie. Strangers on the Internet, though, are a different story. You never know who's looking, or how crazy they are.
Have you ever split a Viagra with Jorge? I hear it makes sex way more intense like you feel like you grow fangs. (5.35)
The use of an erectile dysfunction drug for old men as a recreational one for young men is… well, a little whack. But if you're at military school in Missouri, you've got to do something for fun.
I had never gotten a blow job before P but I just closed my eyes and tried to imagine Cornelia Zenkich from back home like her walking around naked on our lawn and then leaning back against our maple tree and that really helped a lot. (5.55)
While being molested by a man, Jamie fantasizes about a neighbor girl. The fact that he doesn't fight shows how quickly—and terribly—things can go wrong when you lose all your money. He feels legit stuck in this scenario.
I'll probably wind up dating some shy girl with a neck brace and an ass shaped like a stop sign and she'll NEVER lift her hoodie for me not even if I pay her. (12.14)
Note to Jamie: If you're this sexually frustrated before puberty, we don't want you to find out what happens after.
After that we made out and she put my hand down her pants […] and she started rubbing me and things were getting really intense. I couldn't believe how fast it was all happening P but it felt right it really did! (19.111)
Call us crazy, but if you're a teenage boy and a cute girl has her hand down your pants, we submit that there are few ways it could feel other than right.
Man I was high and it was such a beautiful thing P. I mean her breasts were sort of small but they were so PERFECT like they should be put in a museum or something! (19.113)
Again, we submit that if you're really high and you see boobs for the first time, there are few things they can seem other than perfect. Still, Jamie's sense of wonder is refreshing.
[…] she asked me if I wanted to do it […] I told her I was a virgin and she said she was too and I said "You are?" and she said "Yeah but what the hell right? I figure I got this stupid disease and my heart sucks and I don't know how much longer I'll be around." (19.115)
Kind of seems like Albertina's using Jamie, right? At least she admits it, even if not in those exact words. He falls for her anyway, though.
[…] she put the condom on me and started to feel me more and I told her how I didn't have any pubic hair yet and she was like "Who needs pubic hair?" (19.116)
Jamie's body is in several stages of development at once, but that doesn't mean he won't get naked with a girl as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
She couldn't move around so much and we had to stop a few times so she could get into a more comfortable position because her hips were aching from her lupus but once we got a rhythm going it was like nothing I've ever felt before. (19.119)
Jamie's consideration of Albertina's physical pain in the face of his overwhelming sexual urges is a sign that maybe, despite stealing electronics from old ladies and Service Merchandise, he'll turn out okay.
[…] she was sleeping really deeply like way way down. I wanted to wake her and tell her I loved her but I was afraid P. (19.122)
All Jamie's bravado disappears when faced with a real, live, non-Buck Tooth Jenny girl. This moment with Albertina and the time he cries in front of Lewis are the two times in the book Jamie allows himself to be truly vulnerable.
She told me I had a lovely face and that I possessed an androgynous beauty and how I must be appealing to both sexes […] I felt like stabbing her with her fork like I got mad homicidal feelings because of her comment. (5.47)
Mags's comment comes one paragraph before Jamie meets Alan Skymer, who molests him.
He said he thought I was some dykey butch chick from Eugene who was trying to act tough and I was like "You'd fight a girl?" and he said he'd fight a dyke any day of the week…(5.94)
Branson's violent reaction is based on the fact that a lesbian stole his Cypress Hill records. The way we react to a person often has less to do with that person than what someone who they remind us did to us in the past.
When I walked into the women's bathroom I could feel a sick tingling in my nuts P like I was walking through some weird fog of gasoline and animal breath or something. (8.35)
After being attacked in the men's room of a bus stop, Jamie walks into the women's. Sam has just referred to him as "she," and he's testing to see if he can actually pass.
I mean I LIKE girls like in a SEXUAL way but I don't want to BE one! Does that make me like PART LESBIAN or something? Because I LIKE girls AND I LOOK LIKE ONE? (8.37)
Figuring out your sexuality is difficult enough without having it complicated by your gender presentation.
I asked her if she really was confused about my gender and she said she thought I might be "some little dyke-job from Gillette looking to hook up." (12.22)
Erin, the girl working behind the desk at the Lakeside Motel in Buffalo, Wyoming, is under the mistaken assumption that small-town gay people go to even smaller towns when they want to get some action.
He said a drag queen is a man who likes to dress up in women's clothes and a drag KING is a woman who likes to dress up in MEN'S clothes and wear fake mustaches and put cowboy boots on and perform a lot of karaoke. (12.45)
Drag kings doing karaoke could be seen as a step up or a step down from drag queens doing lip sync, depending on your perspective (and the singing skills of the drag king in question).
What was weird P and I mean REALLY FUCKING WEIRD was that even though Lewis just told me he used to be a woman and had his titties removed I really believed he was a man. And the more I talked to him the more it seemed that way. (12.48)
Jamie learns his first, deeply confusing truth of gender identity: It's not always what you think it is, but it is always what someone thinks they are.
[…] he said T won't grow you a dick but it does other things like changes your body in subtler ways like you start to get facial hair and your voice gets deeper and you get more aggressive. (12.51)
T is the hormone testosterone, which some trans men take to develop male sexual characteristics. Most of the changes Lewis is talking about are permanent, even if you stop taking it, but it won't magically grow you a penis.
[…] I asked him why he wanted to be a man and he said "Because that's how I see myself. That's how I've always felt on the inside." (12.53)
Both Jamie and Lewis are fighting to have the world see them as straight guys; they're just coming at it from different biology.
Then I asked him if he thought I looked like a girl and he said that I have "softer features than your average bear" but that I definitely ACTED like a boy. (12.53)
Lewis understands the importance of simultaneously validating Jamie's gender identity and being honest about his physicality. Now we're picturing a punk bear with a bad dye job.
I had never experienced that particular smell before P. The scent of a burnt human is unlike anything else. (1.56)
When a woman at Washington House accidentally sets her room on fire, Jamie is forced to confront death in a hideous way. It's still not enough to drive him back home to the Major.
I was advised by my oncologist to receive chemotherapy treatments right away, which I did, but unfortunately it didn't work very well and the bad stuff has recently spread to my lungs and throat and I have fallen into serious decline. (4.22)
P's first letter sets Jamie's journey into motion. It takes P almost the whole letter to work up to telling Jamie the news and inviting him to come say goodbye.
We never talked about that again but maybe he's right maybe I'm meant for the dead more than the living? Do you think it's possible that some people are on one side or the other even if they're scientifically alive? (5.16)
Branson's statement that the musician Daniel Johnston sounds like a mummy makes Jamie wonder why he likes mummy music so much.
After I find you in Memphis and everything works out and you don't die I'm going to call a cab and have it drive me straight to the first mental hospital I can find. (8.78)
One of the unfortunate casualties of homelessness is proper mental health care. Jamie stops taking his ADD meds in Portland, and the horror of his bus trip is exacerbated by the return of his symptoms.
I remember seeing this movie where a guy gets AIDS and dies. He gets all these brown spots on his face […] and then he goes blind and collapses […] Is anything like that happening to you yet? I figure AIDS and cancer have at least a few things in common but maybe I'm totally wrong. (8.86-87)
The spots Jamie's talking about are Kaposi sarcoma, a kind of cancer caused by AIDS. So while Jamie doesn't know it, in this regard, there is some shared terrain between AIDS and cancer.
[…] I have to admit that I'm sort of getting off on it like I can't wait for the spider to come and eat all the flies and maybe torture one just for pleasure. (12.4)
Looking at a spider web outside the Lakeside Motel, Jamie hopes to see the spider express the aggression he feels. It's twisted, but hey, whatever keeps you from being a serial killer.
[…] I told him about how […] you're dying of cancer. When I heard myself say it out loud things got really fucked up and I like started punching myself like in my face and in my neck and I was suddenly crying like crazy […] (12.63)
Here's some more misplaced aggression: Jamie can't punch Lewis or P or Alan Skymer or cancer, so he punches himself. In case you were wondering if self-injury is about anger—yeah, it often is.
I asked her if they had kids and she said they almost did but they lost it and I said "Like at the grocery store?" and she said no that it died right after it was born and man that was shocking to hear P. Mad shocking. (19.58)
Jamie learns all kinds of stuff about the human condition while on his road trip, and he does it in a matter of days. After losing a child and having a breakdown, Marty tries to seduce Jamie into being her son. (Yeah, it makes us want to take a hot shower too.)
I got to Memphis 6 days ago. You are dead and I can't believe how shitty this world is. I'm sorry P. I'm so sorry I didn't make it sooner. (21.2-5)
Jamie does get to say goodbye to his brother, but P's already unconscious by the time he arrives. Jorge manages to make the world a little less terrible, though, by offering to take Jamie in.
He would give me twenty bucks for every iPod. I would jump joggers in Forest Park which is this big woodland preserve with all these trails and tons of trees. (1.17)
What Jamie does is awful, but it's more awful that Fat Larkin pays him to do it. Sending kids to jump someone is somehow even worse than jumping them yourself.
I heard once how if you have no shame for your bad deeds that it means you're insane. Maybe my heart has an infection in it or something or maybe when I was a baby I had some weird fever that killed part of my conscience? (1.18)
Survival sometimes necessitates a shutdown of conscience, as wrong as that is. Compound the need for survival with a big dose of anger, and you've got Jamie.
I mean I know I have ADD and I know I smoke maybe too much pot and I know I got busted stealing that DVD player in the back of the Service Merchandise and I know the Major hates me and I know all of this makes me like public enemy number one and that I totally deserved to get sent to Buckner. (1.33)
Jamie was already stealing before he got to Portland, but Portland is where it turned violent. Take note, budding writers: Your characters' circumstances up their stakes.
[…] Branson told me how he had a room at Washington House and how the top bunk was open because his boy Tom-Tom just got caught selling digital cameras out of the back of a U-Haul and how Tom-Tom got sent to some juvy home in Corvallis where they put a computer chip in your arm. (5.93)
The part about the computer chip would be highly illegal, but Branson operates in a world in which highly illegal stuff happens on a daily basis.
She said I was more than welcome to use her cell phone and she had an iPhone and as soon as she held it up I had this instinct to take it P like thieving is in my blood now. (8.46)
Fortunately, Jamie redirects his thievery to Sam's backpack instead of Sam's mom's cell phone. It's still not right, but swiping a kid's backpack full of underwear is less traumatic than, say, beating up his mom.
That's when I grabbed his book bag. P you can call me a thief but that would be lame because you've known that about me for a while now. You'd have to call me something else to be original like a marauder. A marauder or like a bandit. (8.58)
If you know the word "marauder," you have no business being one. You should probably be writing instead. P manages to tell Jamie that—although not in those exact words—before his death.
Plus he used so much punctuation which I am bad at I admit like especially with commas. I never know where they're supposed to go or how many you're supposed to use so I pretty much just leave them out. I guess that makes me a grammar bandit too. (8.71)
What Jamie lacks in punctuation skills, he makes up for in voice. Here at Shmoop, we're all about the punctuation, but we're even more about good literature—which, as Punkzilla proves, doesn't always need commas.
I was starting to get a little worried that that dude with the mustache at the Best Western was going to come over and make me pay for my room and look in my book bag at all the stuff I stole and call the cops or something. (15.24)
Jamie scores a free room at Best Western through a combination of lying and employee oversight, but a stolen backpack carries a lot of weight. Paranoia is heavy.
The smiling man led me to a back room which had this big gray backdrop thing and some pretty nice-looking camera equipment like the kind of stuff you could sell on eBay. (15.34)
Here Jamie is, at the mercy of a dubious photographer, and he's thinking about stealing the camera equipment. General life rule: Escaping shade trumps making money.
I realize I am digging my own grave by not taking my medication and being a truant (that's the official word right?) but I'm learning a lot about the world and life in general. (22.8)
Add one more to the list of psych med regimens waylaid by a desire for adventure. The lure of the unknown leads too many people with hyperactivity and mania to toss the drugs that even out their moods, often with disastrous consequences.
P I've been living in Portland for five months and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I probably won't really know for years because that's how it works right? You don't really develop feelings about a place till you've left it. (1.7)
This sentiment is pretty much the basis of all country songs, ever. Hey, do you know what happens when you play a country song backwards? You get your dog, your truck, and your woman back.
North would've meant Washington State and there's nothing up there but wild animals and rivers and naked people fucking in the woods but I know north means anywhere to Branson. He could be on his way to Mexico and if you asked him where he was going he would say he was breaking north. (1.26)
This is partly funny and partly sad—it points to Branson's limited education, which points to a life stuck at Washington House. Keep learning, folks. We're here to help.
Ohio is pretty boring and I know you know that more than anyone but Missouri is cursed with a different kind of boredom P. It hangs in the air like somebody's bad breath. (5.14)
Boredom is indeed oppressive. A bored, dissatisfied populace changes a place as well as a person. You can only spend your days among so many lifeless minds before you either become lifeless yourself or rebel.
Anyway as I was telling you just before I slapped and cut myself that that kid's mom picked us up at the Greyhound station in Caldwell Idaho. (8.43)
Having been beaten in the station bathroom, Jamie inflicts punishment on himself. Shades of his mom's reaction to the Major, huh?
The cornstalks weren't even a foot tall but there was like this SEA of the stuff P…there was something ominous about it like the corn itself would start humming in some low warlock voice and swallow you up if you walked too far into it. (8.60)
This is a perfect place to take a Children of the Corn break. If you're studying in the middle of the night, though, you might want to wait until morning.
I'm not exactly sure what town I'm in but I'm somewhere near Buffalo Wyoming. There's no lake near the Lakeside Motel. At least not one that I can see so I think the motel must be built on a foundation of bullshit. (12.6)
There are actually some really gorgeous lakes in the Bighorn Mountains near Buffalo, Wyoming, but Jamie's the type who needs his lakes right then, right there.
The old skeezer behind the desk at the Best Western had a face like a mustard stain and kept talking about this place called Goblin Valley Utah. I had no idea why she was bringing up some weird place in Utah because I was in Nebraska! (15.15)
Oh, those skeezers, with their goblins and their Utah. Why can't they just stay in one state and be happy about it?
At the rest stop I found an atlas that someone had left on a picnic table and I opened it up to where I was. I had to get all the way across Nebraska and then Iowa and then Illinois and then Kentucky! That's a lot of states P! I had no idea how big this country is. (15.45)
If Jamie had truly comprehended how big America was, he might not have undertaken the journey from Portland to Tennessee—or at least he might have been better prepared for the journey he undertook.
I thought Missouri was boring but Nebraska was like looking at some stupid painting of the land for three hours. (19.19)
To sum up, in Jamie's world, Missouri is more boring than Ohio, but Nebraska is more boring than both.
Man that area of the country seemed really old-fashioned like maybe they didn't know about the Internet or like at any moment someone was going to start playing a banjo or something but I have to admit I liked that feeling P. At least looking out on the Mississippi I did. (19.30)
A world in which no one knows about the Internet is a world in which Buck Tooth Jenny doesn't have to decide whether or not to pose for it. It's also one in which people can't download music for their iPods, so Fat Larkin can't pay people to steal them.
I haven't grown much since the last time you saw me which was four years ago at Christmas I think. That's when you came out of the closet and the Major made you stay at the Holiday Inn. (1.17)
The Wyckoff boys spend a lot of time exiled to hotels due to the Major's intolerance. We're thinking he should get a rewards card—he could at least get a free night when Edward finally flips.
So you went AWOL, huh? Now two-thirds of Wyckoff boys are official runaways! Congratulations on joining the club! (2.9)
Leaving your parents and becoming estranged from your family stinks, but sometimes it's what you have to do in order to become an authentic human being. At least P dies surrounded by a chosen family that loves him, one of whom is a biological relative.
Even though I know Edward would like to think that he is open-minded, he is so thoroughly following in our father's footsteps that I wouldn't be surprised if they wind up with the same trick knees and arthritic hips. (4.25)
Your state of mind affects your body, and your personality is genetically influenced, too. Edward might very well share a strong dose of the Major's DNA, or he might just be too intimidated to displease him.
I know that garden helps her but it makes me sad and tense when I think about her always sneaking around back there just to get away from the Major so she can just sit in peace or like put her hand on a tree because that's the best she gets. (5.20)
Rather than finding a way to get away from the Major and save her kids, Jamie's mom looks for comfort from inanimate objects. Jamie both feels sorry for her and resents her.
I wanted to yell at them to run away while there was still hope to like get the fuck away from their parents and board a ship to some deserted island or some place where they could create their own society with their own rules but I didn't even open my mouth. (5.62)
Jamie sees the potential kids have if they get away from their families—they might retain their imaginations a bit longer, they might not have hang-ups and guilt. But he knows their parents also provide homes, and he's unable to plant the idea that they should run screaming. Where would they run to?
Do you think it's in our genes? Maybe Mom was some crazy shoplifter in her youth or maybe the Major does weird shit like steal a pack of breath mints when he's in line at the grocery store? (8.58)
If Edward got the Major's discipline, Jamie thinks he and P must have gotten their mom's genes, and there must be stuff she's not telling them.
[…] you have so much of that, Jamie, so much potential. All three of us do, and even though Peter is squandering his down in Memphis or Athens, Georgia or wherever it is that he is busy being an opinionated homosexual, there is still hope for you. (11.8)
What Edward doesn't see is that P and Jamie's potential to survive in a larger world is what serves them—not sticking around and trying to follow the Major's stringent rules.
By the way, I should tell you that the person I started dating is your brother Edward. I know it must be weird for you to hear that because of your invitation and because of the fact that he's a senior and I'm a freshman, but it's not as strange as it sounds. (16.4)
Cornelia Zenrich, Jamie's hometown crush, writes him and rubs her normalcy in his face by telling Jamie she's dating Edward. In doing so, she deepens the cracks in his already broken heart.
I was like "You don't even know me" and she said "But I'm enjoying GETTING to know you" and then I finally said it P I said "I'm not your son!" and man it was such a relief to say that. (19.74)
Marty's whack, somewhere on the spectrum between seductive and motherly, which is a confusing spectrum indeed. It would seem she's suffering from long-term, untreated postpartum psychosis.
I'm not going to tell you where I am because I don't want anyone to know especially Mom and the Major and Edward too. Not that you would nark on me. I just don't want there to be any evidence. (22.4)
Jamie wants to make a clean break—his running away is not a cry for attention, it's the real deal. He wants to break away from everyone in his family but P.