People had been disappearing. Everyone knew that. And yet, when Alex […] found his whole family had been taken away […] he couldn't quite believe it. (1.1)
Can you imagine how scary this would be? Though he's only twelve years old, Alex must now face the prospect of living completely on his own. Frankly, we couldn't even make a grilled cheese sandwich when we were that age, so we don't know how he's going to manage it.
He had been secretly angry when they had made him move from the room he and Nadya shared […] so that Nadya could have it all to herself. (1.1)
Like most kids, Alex isn't always crazy about his family. Now that they're gone, however, he can't help but regret all those times when he let preteen angst get in the way of their relationship. In other words, consider this your daily reminder to tell your mom you love her.
"Do you see anyone coming with food for us and the child? Every step we take is that much closer to your cousin in Moscow." (2.39)
Alex overhears this conversation on the road to Moscow. While this might seem like a depressing quote, we think that it's actually quite moving because it shows how far people will go to protect their families. We just hope that these three made it to Moscow safely…
"Your uncle was taken away a month ago. You could go to the local soviet and inquire, but I don't think it would be wise." (3.26)
Alex endures some serious hardships to reach Moscow, but the rug is pulled out from under him as soon as he arrives. Now Alex realizes that his entire family is missing, leaving him completely alone in a completely unfamiliar city. Yikes.
And there was something about the boy, through the dirt, through the hard look, that impressed him. He had an authority that was almost like […] a father's. (3.48)
Alex looks up to Peter like a father, which totally makes sense to us. After all, Peter is an amazing leader and a generous friend. And—most importantly—he puts other people's needs ahead of his own. With his whole family gone, Alex could sure use someone like Peter right about now.
He thought of the time when he might have pushed his oatmeal away if it tasted a bit scorched […] when his old grandmother fixed the breakfast. (4.16)
Once again, Alex is slammed with feelings of guilt about his family. Although he wishes he could go back in time and change things (where's Doc Brown when you need him?) the best way that he can honor his family's memory is by living up to the morals they instilled in him.
"I was sorry that his had happened to the old man. He was the only person who had ever been good to me after my mother died." (5.63)
Peter—like Alex—had his life saved by an unlikely father figure. He was saved from the streets by Jacob the Baker, who sheltered him, protected him, and taught him how to be a good man. Given this, it's only right that Peter pays it forward by doing the same for Alex.
But the younger boys were so respectful of his ability to read that with them Alex felt quite dignified—almost like his father. (7.3)
This is a big deal. Although Alex is still shaken by the loss of his family, he's grown up a lot and managed to become a father figure to other kids who need it. Aw, shucks—look how our main man has grown.
If one could go, why stay with this unsavory band? But he now felt it would be like leaving his family. (10.58)
We have all of the feels right now. Although Alex was scared of these kids at first, he's come to realize that they all truly care about him. What's even moresurprising, though, is that he finds himself caring for them, too.
"But I can't leave them," Alex said. "It was my idea to come here. I can't leave them now. They are my friends." And, yes, he thought, my family. (12.50)
In the end, Alex honors his family's memory by doing right by Peter and his friends. After all, each of these kids were torn from their families in the cruelest ways possible and set adrift on the mean streets of Moscow. With this in their past, it's only right that they've come together to create a new family.