Julia admits to Izzy that she still has feelings for Campbell. Just then, Campbell arrives and asks Julia out to dinner to discuss Sara’s plea bargain. He takes her out on his boat, and though they’re having a good time, Julia suspects Campbell wants to sway her decision. Julia gets angry and wonders if Campbell ever says anything that isn’t a lie, but Campbell kisses her. She remarks that it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
The novel presents love, whether romantic or familial, as a complex and often contradictory emotion, and no relationships better exemplify this idea than Julia’s and Campbell’s relationship and Sara’s and Anna’s relationship. Julia, for instance, feels simultaneously attracted to and repelled by Campbell, largely because of how he treated her in the past. She asks Izzy if Izzy thinks she likes Campbell “because he’s an asshole or in spite of it.” At one point, Julia and Campbell go from arguing to kissing in a matter of seconds. In a similar manner, Sara can go from being extremely angry at Anna to being tender and caring in a short period. Often the people in both relationships wound each other deeply, as when Campbell stopped calling Julia, or when Anna filed her lawsuit. The characters in these relationships can hurt each other so much specifically because they love each other, not in spite of that fact.
Sara’s and Brian’s relationship reaches a breaking point in these chapters. In Brian’s memories of their trip to Nevada, we see a couple entirely different from the one we have seen throughout the novel. They are young, energetic, and very much in love. Currently, however, much of their relationship revolves around dealing with Kate’s cancer. Brian’s choice to support Anna also puts them for the first time in opposition with each other. Previously, Sara typically took the lead and convinced Brian to follow, as when she convinced him to see the fortune teller with her during their trip to Nevada. Now, however, Brian cannot be convinced. He believes Anna should be allowed to make her own decision about serving as Kate’s donor, leaving Sara feeling even more alone in her struggle to save Kate.
Brian’s wish to bring Kate home to die brings up another conflict in the story. Kate comes near death multiple times in the novel. Each time we see her suffering greatly. She bleeds profusely and slips into a coma, for instance. Because she has a terminal disease, the question does not seem to be whether she will die, but when. The struggle to prolong her life has put a great burden on every member of the family. Jesse and Anna do not have normal childhoods and regularly cannot do the things they want to do. Sara and Brian must care for Kate constantly and their marriage has suffered as a result, The greatest burden, however, falls on Kate herself, who must endure harsh treatments such as chemotherapy and suffers tremendously as the cancer destroys her body. If Sara and Brian bring Kate home, she will certainly die, ending her suffering. If she remains in the hospital, she may be able to go on living temporarily, but her suffering will continue and it remains only a matter of time before she will need to be hospitalized again. No perfect option exists, and we see Brian and Sara struggling to determine what would be best for Kate.
Despite his tough-guy persona, Jesse begins to emerge as one of the most vulnerable characters in the story. Even when he destroys things, he never intends to hurt anyone. When he sets the shack on fire and Dan tells him someone could be inside, Jesse runs in without a thought to his own safety. Although he blows up the school’s septic tank, we learn that he has been donating platelets for Kate. These actions suggest an internal conflict in Jesse’s character between impulses to destroy himself and to save others. Jesse’s self-destructive behavior stems specifically from his desire to be noticed by his parents, specifically Brian. According to Jesse’s description, when Jesse asked Brian to keep his promise and take Jesse to the parking lot to skate, Brian looked at Jesse like Jesse was “made out of smoke.” Jesse says for the first time he thought he might be, just meaning that he felt invisible. Immediately after, he ended up walking into traffic, just hoping to be noticed. Jesse’s desire to save others, meanwhile, appears to stem from his wish to save Kate and also from a wish to be like Brian, his father. When Jesse runs into the burning shack to save the homeless man that lives there, he unconsciously mirrors Brian, the firefighter.