A story revolving around 3 characters, Kwan, Salvador and Sam.
Kwan, a foreign exchange student hangs out with Sal and Sam, a couple with a troubled relationship. Each go on their own adventure, Kwan, doin various of good deeds for people, until eventually getting fed up. Which later leads to his death. Meanwhile Sal is working at a boxing company, with his fellow co-workers and "Mean" boss. Sam decides to join an art club and get into some artsy shenanigans until quitting and delving more into the world of poetry.
The story ends with a dream sequence in which Sam dreams of dancing with Sal meanwhile kwan watches next to Death .
A foreign exchange student. He speaks in an accent with bad English grammar. He's very nice but a little naive in American culture. Kwan is constantly enamoured by everything, to the humour or annoyance of his peers. Throughout the events of 'smokes' Kwan is constantly looking out for his friends and is worried about their actions and the courses they take in life, suggesting healthier alternatives to their situations.
Kwan is an innocent and naturally happy person. As Cate Wurtz, the author, was exploring darker themes through teenage life at the time of writing 'smokes', Kwan's death possibly highlights the cruel nature of the world, a positive ray of light succumbing to the random greed of the uncaring populous, a twisted display of the violence Kwan peacefully opposed.
After being berated for his constant positivity and friendiness by both Sal and Sam, his only friends, for being too worried about their lives. Kwan storms out onto the street in a rush, he encounters two beggars who plead for money, Kwan bedrugingly refuses, influecned by his friends criticisms of his personality refuses to pay, trying to escape the situation, upset and confused he apologetically searches or a way out, he is inexplicably shot and killed instantly by the beggars, who pay no mind to his lifeless corpse, stealing his wallet and commenting on the stupidity of the town and its people.
Wurtz implies that both Sal and Sam heavily contributed to Kwan's death, using him as an outlet for abuse because of their failing lives and immature decisions, as he is an image of a positive, cautious person, the exact thing they are not. Kwan was never going to survive in the world of 'smokes', with apathetic and sinister teens who loot, steal and bully, his death was an inevitability, Kwan became the only character by the end who didn't want to die.
Interestingly when Sal is confronted with an actual homeless person, frustrated with his potential love interest calling him a pussy, he violently beats the man to death while venting about his ruined life. Wurtz demonstrates how only the cruel can survive, and those who aren't willing to lie or kill like Kwan get nothing.
(To the beggars/robbers) "no there's not time so please"
"the girls are so polite here!"
"Sam are you not going to your english class! that is bad behaviour." "Sam you are very smart you could do any test!"
SalvadorSalvador tends to be a jerk. He is in a semi-relationship with Stacy, though they're in somewhat of a rocky relationship, but the two still refer to each other boyfriend/girlfriend. He seems to hate his job and boss but once given the chance to leave he refused. He seems to do whatever is neccesary in order to be lazy, shown by his self injury to escape work.
"I HAVE A FUCKING JOB
Sam, Sal's (ex)girlfriend who seems relatively chill with most things. Though she does get agitated at times. She seems to be the laziest of the group to the point of even encouraging Kwan to skip class. She seem to have a specialty for writing, as everyone compliments her poems and stories.
She hates school and thinks it's soemthing developed to train people to be zombies, while she just wishes to express herself.
"Yeah maybe if school wasn't trying to make fucking zombies."
AllenAllen is Sam's friend who convinces her to be roommates. He's interested in the arts and fully supports Sam and her poetry.
He also killed a cat just so Sam stays with him in his apartment a while longer.
Animal cruelty is bad kids.