At the start of the novel, Atlas is eager to reconnect with Lily, thrilled by the possibility of reigniting their adolescent romance. Committed, compassionate, thoughtful, and caring, Atlas presents a clear counterpoint to the jealous, manipulative Ryle for Lily. Atlas has spent most of his life escaping the violence perpetuated by his mother and stepfather and by developing as a person who is a stalwart protector of those he loves. Atlas’s discovery of Josh, his twelve-year-old half-brother, moves him into a fierce protective stance, as Josh faces similar abuse and neglect at the hands of their unstable mother Sutton, as Atlas did as a kid. Atlas’s character is committed to ending cycles of violence in his family, getting custody of Josh, and starting a new beginning by giving Josh the life he never had. Atlas also is devoted to Lily and is committed to helping her extricate herself from her violent, jealous ex-husband. Guided by his love for Lily and Josh, Atlas strives to fulfill the promises he made to himself: to provide Lily with a good life and to help his brother escape the fate he himself suffered as a teenager. 

Throughout the novel, Atlas meets the challenges set before him with remarkable grace. For example, when faced with an angry, violent Ryle, Atlas controls his temper, though he is enraged at the way Ryle continues to harm and torture Lily. Instead of reacting, though, Atlas focuses on how he can do the best long-term good for both Lily and Emerson, and speaks to Ryle with compassion and firmness, arguing for a peaceful coexistence. Similarly, when faced with his unstable mother Sutton, Atlas employs a combination of compassion and firmness to insist he’s the one who should raise Josh. Atlas’s reward for all his selflessness, patience, kindness, and compassion is that he has the family he has always wanted and deserved at the end of the novel. He has custody of his brother Josh, and he is able to build a new kind of family with Lily, one built on love.