Based upon Knowles' experiences at the elite Philip Exeter Academy, A Separate Peace pairs shy, quiet 16-year old Gene Forrester with the effervescent, carpe-diem Finny.
Later, Finny falls down a flight of stairs, breaks his leg again, and dies as a result (even today, many novels about gay people kill them as psychic punishment).
When I first read the novel, I couldn't understand why Gene loved and hated Finny at the same time. Today I know about internalized homophobia.
Parker Stevenson (later to star in The Hardy Boys series with Shaun Cassidy), made the boys' uncertain future in World War II pivotal to understanding Gene's rage.