Tony Miglione is an Italian-American teenager whose family moves to an upper-class neighborhood after his father becomes wealthy from an invention. Themes involve class conflict, peer pressure, and the trials of male puberty. (In the latter respect, it is intentionally something of a gender-inverted complement to Blume's preceding novel, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret..)
This novel contains examples of:
- A Date with Rosie Palms: The book's treatment of the subject has made it a favorite target of censors. Or perhaps it's because of Tony's nocturnal activities.
- Appropriated Appelation: The Hoobers' maid has a Spanish name that Mrs. Hoober finds hard to pronounce, so Mrs. Hoober dubbed her Millicent. She also gets into the habit of calling Tony's mother "Carol" (her real name is Carmella), which Tony's mother doesn't mind, but which infuriates her son.
- Badass Decay: In-universe, Tony thinks his brother Ralph came down with a severe case of it. Ralph used to want to be a mathematician and was nicknamed "The Wizard," but after his family gets rich, he gives up on math to follow his father in the computer software business (which he doesn't particularly enjoy) and gains weight. He also loses his close relationship and connection with Tony.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Tony's classmate, Kathryn "Corky" Thomas, has a crush on him and isn't at all shy about letting him know. Initially he wishes she would just leave him alone, but by the end of the novel he decides she's not so annoying after all and even begins to dream about her.
- Crusty Caretaker / Servile Snarker: The Miglione's live-in housekeeper Maxine has elements of both. In fact, more often than not, it's she who bosses them around. Yet she displays Jerk with a Heart of Gold tendencies at times, such as when she fixes Tony his favorite chicken dinner after he has a particularly rough day.
- Dead Guy Junior: Tony's baby niece is named Vincenza in honor of his eldest brother, Vinnie, who died in the Vietnam War. They call her Vicki for short.
- Keeping Up with the Joneses: In Tony's mother's case, it's Keeping Up with the Hoobers, and it becomes an obsession for her. Whatever the Hoobers have, the Migliones must have as well, whether it's a live-in housekeeper or piano lessons for Tony; hurt feelings or inconvenience for her loved ones (especially her own mother, when she gives in to Maxine's demands to be in charge of the kitchen instead of the "old lady") are just collateral damage. When Joel goes off to military school, Mrs. Miglione even considers packing Tony off to military school for a minute. It gets to the point where Tony wonders whether if Joel were in juvenile detention, his parents would ask him if he wanted to be in juvenile detention too.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Applies to Tony regarding his relationship with his family, from whom he becomes increasingly alienated as the story progresses.
- Maid: The Migliones go through several (all of whom are either incompetent or can't speak English or both) before settling on Maxine, who insists on taking over the cooking chores from Tony's grandmother (who is so upset about this that she takes to her room). The Hoobers have one too, but in the exact opposite of Tony's household, Joel more or less has her under his thumb.
- Naughty Birdwatching: Tony discovers the girl next door likes to undress in front of the window. So he asks for some binoculars for Christmas for "bird watching" from his parents.
- Nervous Wreck: Tony often gets severe stomach pains, which seem to be triggered by Joel's antics. At one point his pains become so severe that he actually collapses and is rushed to the hospital.
- Raging Stiffie: Tony is going through puberty, and often gets erections at embarrassing times, such as in school.
- Smoking Is Not Cool: Tony's older male relatives all smoke cigars, particularly his dad. His brother Ralph even offers him one after baby Vicki's birth, which causes his mother to go ballistic - not that Tony would have smoked it anyway, since Tony hates cigars.
- Tony's crush, Lisa, smokes cigarettes, and Tony tries to get her to quit by telling her about his grandmother, who had throat cancer and had her larynx removed - embellishing the story by mentioning that his grandmother smoked "like a fiend," although in truth she never smoked at all. It seems to work, as Lisa is so disgusted at the thought of losing her larynx that she swears off cigarettes right then and there, and Tony is pleased to think that he's responsible for her quitting smoking.
- The Hermit: Tony's grandmother locks herself in her bedroom after her daughter replaces her with Maxine as the family's chef. She refuses to come out for almost anything - even for church or family gatherings - and lets no one in but Tony, who seems to be the only one who understands, or even cares, how she feels.
- The Speechless: Tony's grandmother had her voice box removed due to throat cancer (although she never smoked) and as a result can communicate only by writing notes in Italian, which Tony's mother must translate for the rest of the family. However, she does seem to be able to understand English, even if she can't communicate in English herself.
- The Talk: Tony's dad tries to give him a talk, saying he doesn't really know how to go about it, as he never brought the matter up with his two older sons. Tony assures him that he's learned all about it from school and friends, but his dad gives him a book later, just in case.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Tony, his rich next door friend Joel and his old friend from the inner city, Frankie, are hanging out in Joel's basement when Joel jimmies into his father's liquor cabinet. The three boys get drunk. It was the first time Tony and Frankie had done this, but Joel had been drinking enough that he knew well the differences between the various kinds of alcohol.