Study Guide

Billy Miller in The Year of Billy Miller

Billy Miller

It's easy to see that Billy Miller is the main man in this book. His name is in the title for goodness sake, and we spend every second of the book with him. Seriously, we basically never leave his side. So that means when Billy has his highest highs and his lowest lows, well, we're going up and down right alongside him.

Since we're pretty much stuck with the guy, the good news is that Billy is a second-grader with a seriously kind heart. So most of the time, we're convinced he's just about the best guy ever, making him an easy dude to hang out with.

Billy the Encourager: He'll Support You Until He's Blue in the Face

This kid can be a super helpful chap when he wants to be. Sure, he has his moments when he's not the nicest, especially toward Emma and his little sis. But over time he becomes a pretty supportive bloke.

And one of the ways he really helps his family and friends out is by encouraging them. So when his dad is feeling down in the dumps about his art, Billy is ready to give his pops some cool ideas. And one of those ideas even works: dioramas, or assemblages as his dad calls them.

And when Sal is a bit bummed that she and Billy weren't able to stay up all night together, her big brother steps up to the plate. He knows just how to make his little sis feel better—with the best letter ever:

Dear Sal,

Will make it to morning next time. Your ok.

Your brother,
Billy
(3.5.42)

Sure, there are typos and whatnot, but who cares? It's the sentiment that counts in this case. And since Billy's goal is to make his sister feel all warm and gushy inside, we'd say he's on the right track. He's got this encouraging business in the bag.

And if you're wondering where Billy gets this supportive side of his personality from, we've got a hunch it stems from two other seriously helpful folks in this book (we're looking at you, Mama and Papa). What do you think?

Just so you know, we've got loads more to say about Billy's journey toward niceness in the "Themes" section, so be sure to check that out. What do you think takes Billy from sour-faced big bro to most encouraging guy around?

Billy the Brave: Nerves Be Gone

Here's the truth: If there's one person Billy isn't always great at encouraging, it's himself. And this means that our guy spends a decent chunk of this book being nervous. He's scared about being smart enough for second grade, and that huge lump on his head isn't helping. Sometimes he even freaks himself out, like when he imagines the monster under the bed.

But there's another side to this story: Billy never lets his worries hold him back. In fact, he still dives into every situation thrown at him, which is pretty impressive. He's not about to shy away from a little glitter or give up on trying to pull an all-nighter, no way.

Even when Billy's nerves are big as can be, he still faces his fears. And when he's nervous about reciting his poem by heart at the end-of-the-year poetry show, he doesn't let his nervousness stop him from bravely giving it one more go. Check him out:

Before he could change his mind, he began to recite his poem from memory. He felt the first few words catch in his mouth and then they rolled out of him as easy as could be.

He did it quickly, but he did it. When he was finished, he could hear the rush of blood in his ears. He felt light, as if he weighed next to nothing. (4.5.72-73)

Okay, so when we say Billy's brave, that doesn't mean he doesn't still have some jitters to work out. But he's also got the gusto to face his fears. Sure, no one besides his mom knows what he's doing, but Billy feels pretty stinking brave—and maybe that's the most important thing. We're thinking it is, anyway. After all, everyone feels afraid sometimes, so what matters is what we do with our fear. And Billy shows his who's boss time and again.