"Maybe we’re both bad people."
Ryle looks over at me with a thoughtful expression. "Lily," he says pointedly. "There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things."

This quote is from Chapter One, and it takes place during Ryle and Lily’s first conversation, when Lily says that her father abused her mother. Ryle’s quote could serve as a central thesis of the novel. Though Lily struggles with hating her father much of her life, after his passing, she finds that she’s not so sure about her black and white definitions of good and bad. She recognizes that, as a member of an abusive family, she has parts of herself that she’s not proud of or that have caused harm to other people. Ryle encourages a more nuanced perspective, and the idea that people are not all bad carries Lily through much of her relationship with Ryle. Though she doesn’t like his abusive actions and finds them deeply harmful and frightening, she also recognizes that Ryle still loves her, struggles with his own pain, and still has many redeeming qualities.

All humans make mistakes. What determines a person's character aren't the mistakes we make. It's how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.

This quote takes place in Chapter Fourteen and marks the moment when Lily starts to forgive Ryle for pushing her into the cabinet door. Here, Lily is still reeling from Ryle’s violent act and she’s trying to reconcile the person she’s always known Ryle to be with the man who just disregarded her physical safety and well-being. In a sense, the novel is an exploration of how the characters turn the mistakes of their lives into lessons rather than excuses to cause more pain. For example, Lily wants to allow room for Ryle to grow from his mistake and learn a different way forward. In trying to stop the cycle of violence, Lily believes that Ryle can be a different person than her father was and can stop his violent outbursts. She wants to experience this change, not just to salvage their romantic relationship but also to be able to forgive her parents for the many mistakes they made as she was growing up.

I stare at the book for a long time. I think about Ryle. I think about Atlas. I think about how sometimes, no matter how convinced you are that your life will turn out a certain way, all that certainty can be washed away with a simple change in tide.

This quote takes place in Chapter Seventeen, after Atlas gives Lily the signed copy of Ellen’s biography and before Lily reads the last entry in her teenage journal. Confronted with a grown-up Atlas, Lily begins to look back on her life. She traces how she went from the sweet teenage love with Atlas to the confusion and violence of her present life. As a teenager, Lily wanted her life to turn out a certain way, and she was sure that she would, one way or another, end up with Atlas. As an adult, Lily is committed to her relationship with Ryle. However, both times she was certain about what she wanted and which way her life was going, her life took unexpected turns into violence. For Lily, the change in tide has often been caused by the whims of violent men. By inscribing the memoir with “Just keep swimming,” Atlas reminds Lily that even though the tides may turn against her, she can always continue to move towards the life she dreams of.