I have read Basketball Diaries so many times. and each time the over all theme seems to change. I think this is why Carroll's teenage novel is still read - People under estimate Carroll's ability to write in such strong language, and detailed horribleness, at such a young age. As in the scene, as a teenage hooker, he's faced with whipping a cat to death with a small razor cat whip, while doing other sick-o things. "Too bad for this guy, I happened to be in a cat loving mood" writes Jim. He punches the guy, pisses on him and graps the kitty and splits. If I had to sum up a theme it would be what the ordinary kid in New York City"s working class finds in the shooting galleries of NYC. "I forgot to mention, I lost my virgin veins in a shooting room. They said, if you're going to skin pop it, you might as well mainline it." Jim hangs around many ordinary kids in Basketball pactice and drug, drinking, and sex. He's a serious student, and a top notch Basketball player, although, as the drugs sink in, he starts screwing up to the point where him and his buddies put pills in a hat and drew up the ones they thought best before a big game. It was either a downer, or an upper - and they did not know until the effects of the drug started making their legs turn to cement, and then their brains, and they are kicked out of the game On the taxi ride home, they all have a hystical laugh about the stupidity of what they did. Then one guy sums it up, "I wish I were high." The theme would be drugs, but not just drugs, but escaping from your family. Jim's father owns a bar, and all the regular customers have to ask his father, "what the hell's the matter with that long hair kid of yours?" Jim's a star, and a budding writer and poet, but all anyone sees about him is his hair. Until you read this book, it's hard to understand what long hair signifyed. You were against the war, a dope head, anything but what a good working class Catholic would be. But unlike other novels that drag the kid down, Jim doesn't care. He moves to "Headquarters" where all his buddies are, and the last scene is a 2 or 3 day shooting party, (complete with a the blood and spikes in bloody water any square could love) and Jim is drinking orange juice, and wondering about the whole damn thing. He says, "I just want to be pure.. . ." Maybe the last line in the book is the real theme, he's trying to find purity in the most burnt out conditions. His poetry book, "Living at the Movies" shines another light on the Jim of Basketball Dairies. In the movie, which I could take or leave, they did an overdub of "A Little Poem on St. Agnes's Day." I thnk that's not the theme, but the subtext, and that's what makes Jim's writing work. It makes it art, so you can look for the theme, but the subtext tells you more.