As a teenager, Atlas is down on his luck, struggling with homelessness after his mother kicked him out of the house. Atlas is often self-deprecating and funny, and though it’s difficult for him to admit to needing help, he is grateful for all Lily does for him. He also goes out of his way to be attentive to Lily, paying attention to what she needs and listening to her closely, something no one in her life has done before. Though he appears to be resilient and strong, he struggles with depression, and if it weren’t for Lily, he might have ended his own life. Falling in love with Lily serves as an organizing principle for Atlas’s life, and he spends their years apart bettering himself, making his life as attractive, stable, and beautiful as possible for the person he never stopped loving.
As an adult, Atlas lives the life he set out to create when he and Lily were teenagers. He is a successful chef, as well as self-sufficient, and he works his way up to that position through hard work, both in the Marines and in life. Atlas is, in many ways, everything that Ryle isn’t. He is calm, patient, and self-sacrificing. He tells Lily he has a girlfriend when he believes that she’s happy with Ryle, not wanting to do anything that could cause her pain or disrupt her joy. He interferes in her life only when he sees that she is hurting, and he does everything he can to encourage her to help herself. When Lily does reach out to Atlas after Ryle hurts her, Atlas makes himself as available as possible to help her through, but he never pushes the question of any intimacy between them and always respects her decisions. Through patience, respectful love, and unwavering commitment, Atlas ends up with Lily in the end.