The theme in this novel is about how people treat you based on your past, and not who you are now. This can be seen when people beat Billy whenever they see him, because of his petty thefts in the years ago, but fail to see him differently now. They also do not consider what he is going through as his father is jobless and under debt.
Theme Development #3
Anyhow, Billy, you got ways. (170)
The theme is first introduced in the novel when Jimmy Brest comes up to beat up Billy, because of a false rumor that the shoes he had lost were stolen by Billy.
The theme is presented once again when Officer Dryker mocks Billy for trying to solve the case of the missing boys, because he thinks Billy is the same trouble making kid, instead of taking Billy's important information on the case.
How about Jimmy Brest alive and well? Then we'll talk. (164)
The only person that seems to understand the hurdles Billy is fighting to help his father pay his debt, and is doing it without stealing, is his sister. Despite all the people trying to put Billy down, she is the reason he does not give up trying.
Billy surprises everyone when he catches the man kidnapping children. He gets $100,000 as a reward for saving Jimmy Brest, and people view him differently as an intelligent teenager, and not as the troublemaker he was years ago.