Awesome Readers’ Club – Uglies


This month, ARC is reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. This is my second go at Uglies, I didn’t finish it the first time around. I don’t remember why. In addition to discussion, I have a couple other activities planned: the Opening Lines Matching Game and it’s time for us to select more books to read (yay!). For book selections, I generally let everyone write down suggestions to put in a basket and then we pull titles at random. We then look up a description of the titles pulled and vote on whether or not the club wants to read it. We will choose about 6 books at a time. I also put a few titles into the basket (which is how we ended up reading The Name of the Star last year). The teens enjoy this method because everyone gets to be involved in selection and they feel like their voices get heard.

On to the discussion questions. This month I’ll be using questions that Mr. Westerfeld himself wrote (found on his blog).


1. Have you ever had a friend like Peris, who abandoned your friendship after they moved away?

2. At first, did you hope Tally would get the operation? When did you change your mind? (Or did you?)

3. Have you ever found yourself trusting someone more or paying more attention to what they said not because they deserved it, but just because of their looks?

4. In what ways did Tally’s trip through the wild prepare her for what she learned in the Smoke?

5. Would you give up your ability to think independently in exchange for being happy, beautiful, perpetually healthy, and rich?

6. How did David see Tally differently than she saw herself?

7. If Shay could have gone back in time and never have met Tally, do you think she would?

8. Other than the pretty operation, what are the main differences between the pretty society and our own? (Are there any ways in which the pretty society is healthier than ours?)

9. To what extent did Tally decide her own fate, and how much did other people decide it for her?

10. The Rusty civilization collapsed because of its dependence on oil. In what ways is your lifestyle dependent on oil and gasoline? How easily would you survive if it all disappeared one day?

Awesome Readers’ Club – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks


For this month’s ARC, we’re reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I basically forced this book upon them because I love it. Actually, I’ve liked almost all of E. Lockhart’s books (I wasn’t wild about  Fly on the Wall or Dramarama, but loved all of the Ruby Oliver books and I’m really looking forward to We Were Liars). In addition to discussion, I’m going to give the teens special mustaches to place on their favorite books throughout the stacks (kind of a little prank of our own because it will confuse any other patron that picks the book up).

Here are the discussions questions to go with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which I got from Hyperion Discussion GuideThe questions may contain spoilers, so reader beware.  

  1. Frankie undergoes both a physical and an emotional transformation in the book. Why do you think people only recognize one of them? Is it difficult for women who are beautiful to be taken seriously? Why?
  2. How does Frankie first meet Alpha? Why doesn’t he acknowledge their chance encounter? Matthew, too, has no memory of having met Frankie. How does this make her feel? Would you ave handled this situation similarly, or not? Why?
  3. Why do you think the author chose a boarding school as the setting for the novel “that patriarchal establishment, the insular, over-privileged life”? How does the setting add to the conflicts and development of Frankie’s story? What is the most interesting thing about Alabaster?
  4. Discuss Frankie’s romance with Porter. Do you think this contributed to what happens with Matthew?
  5. Frankie gains not only a boyfriend but a whole posse of charming boys to hang out with, too. Why is this group so much fun for her to hang around with? Why does she find it a bit scary to invest so much of her energy into this group?
  6. Frankie learns about the theory of a panopticon in her favorite class. Do you agree with the theory that most people behave because they have this sense of being monitored? Do you think this sense prevails in modern life even more than in previous times? How? Why? Does it influence your own behavior? How?
  7. Why do you think secret societies exist at all? What does Frankie learn about the Bassets as the novel progresses? Why do you think she’s unable to just let it go?
  8. Frankie weighs everything before she says it and considers her options before she speaks. Are you able to do this? Do you wish you could? Do you think most people consider their words before speaking? Are you clever or funny like Frankie? How do people develop wit?
  9. Over the course of the novel Frankie seems to get more and more angry about how other people perceive her. She’s tired of pretending to be just one thing. Have you ever felt this rage against expectations? What did you do about it? What does Frankie do?
  10. Which of the pranks did you find the most compelling? Have you ever been a prankster? What does Frankie learn about herself as she plans and executes the pranks? How does it change everyone’s perception of her?
  11. Frankie also rails against the unwritten codes of her school, such as who gets to sit at the senior table. What are the unwritten codes and rules at your own school? Has anyone ever tried to defy them? What were the consequences?
  12. Describe Frankie’s romance with Matthew. Who would you say is in control of the relationship? Why? How does it end between them? Do you think Matthew is justified in his feelings? Do you think he was ever really in love with Frankie to begin with? Why?
  13. Frankie wants Matthew to “. . . admire her cleverness, her ambition, her vision. That he would admit her as his equal, or even as his superior, and love her for what she was capable of.” Do you think this is even possible in teen relationships? Is it possible in life? How many marriages that you know operate under this banner?
  14. How do the others react when they learn she was the mastermind behind the pranks? Why were they it considered “brilliant” when the Bassets thought Alpha was in charge, but “psychotic” when Frankie is revealed as the perpetrator?
  15. In the end, Frankie concludes, “It is better to be alone, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are.” Do you agree with her? Do your friends and romantic partners see who you really are or only who they expect and want you to be? What don’t you reveal to your friends and family? Do you think men or women share their true selves more with others? Why?

Awesome Readers’ Club – The Giver

ARC - The Giver

This month, ARC is reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you haven’t read The Giver, you definitely should. It is one of the best dystopian novels ever.


Here are this month’s discussion questions, which I got from the Scholastic website:

• If you were attending the Ceremony of Twelve with Jonas, what Assignment do you think the Elders would select for you?

• How would you feel to be watched all the time, the way people living in Jonas’s community are?

• Jonas’s community has a lot of rules. Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing? Why?

• All the members of Jonas’s family had to sign a pledge that they would not become attached to the newchild, Gabe. Do you

think it’s possible to keep such a promise?

• What do you think of how families in Jonas’s community are formed?

• Can you imagine giving up such things as snow and hills because they are impractical?

• Imagine a world without color. What color would you miss most?

• What value, if any, is there to Sameness?

• Do you agree with Jonas that people have to be protected from wrong choices?

• Do you agree that painful memories are made easier when they are shared?

• Do you think it’s fair that one person in the community—The Receiver—should have to be burdened and pained by memories

so that no one else is?

• Jonas knows that if his plan to escape and give the community memories fails, he could be killed. But he believes that if he stays, his life is no longer worth living. Do you agree?

• Do you think The Giver should have gone with Jonas? Why?

• Why is the community so desperate to get Jonas back?

• Jonas briefly wonders whether he made the wrong choice when he decided to run away. What do you think?

The trailer for the upcoming film adaptation recently came out, so we will watch and discuss it as well. Just from the promo photos, my first thought was, “No way is that kid 11.” Such is the way of Hollywood, though. Gabrielle Carteris was in her 30s while portraying a teenager on Beverly Hills, 90210. Some things never change.

Awesome Readers’ Club – Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick


At my library, I run the Awesome Readers’ Club. ARC is our book club for teens in grades 6-12. They sign-up each month and receive a copy of the book we’re reading (which they get to keep forever). There are about 7 regulars that attend each month and a few that come on various occasions. Our meetings almost always go off-topic and turn into a discussion of cheese, Warrior Cats, and random school complaints. Not that this is necessarily bad because I like that the teens feel comfortable talking to me, but I would like for them to discuss our monthly book selection a little. Typically, I try to keep the discussion free-form and I think that is where the problem lies. To make it more structured, I am going to start writing actual discussion questions for each book which the teens will take turns drawing from a basket. To keep myself accountable for the discussion questions, I’m going to post them here.

This month’s book selection was Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. I had a rough time coming up with questions (next month is The Giver and I should have no problem there.) Here is the Goodreads description of Ashes:

“An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human. “


I have mixed feelings about this book and think that affected my ability to come up with discussion questions. I didn’t really like the main characters, though I thought the story itself was interesting. Ellie and Alex both annoyed me to no end. I was also confused by Rule. How did a little society with a form of government and everything pop up so soon after the zap? It was only a few months. There must have been something weird going on in that village beforehand, it just doesn’t make sense. Some old guys are just like we’re in charge now and everyone is cool with that – no way is that happening. Also, there were too many cliffhangers. Anyway, here are the discussion questions I am going to use for Ashes:

  • Who do you think set off the ebomb that caused the zap?
  • Why do you think some kids and teens were spared but others weren’t?
  • Do you think it was wise for Alex, Tom, and Ellie to leave the cabin?
  • If you were alone in the woods after the zap, what would you want in your survival pack?
  • What do you think happened to Tom after Alex left to find help?
  • Do you think Ellie is still alive?
  • Which character is your favorite?
  • Which character is your least favorite?
  • If your friend or family member became Changed, do you think you would kill them – like Tom killed Jim? Or would you try to keep them alive, like Larry did with his daughter?
  • Do you think Alex should have stayed and tried to help Chris?
  • Who do you want Alex to end up with, Tom or Chris?
  • What changes do you think Jess wants to happen in Rule? Why do you think she believes Chris is the one who can make change happen?
  • If you could have Yeager’s sense of touch, Alex’s sense of smell, or Jess’ sense of hearing – which would you choose and why?
  • Do you believe that Rule is feeding the Changed? Why?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What was your least favorite part of the book?
  • Why do you think all the dogs love Alex?
  • Would you recommend this book to a friend?
  • Will you read the rest of the Ashes trilogy?

Feel free to use these questions for your own book club.

Icebreaker Jenga

Icebreaker Jenga

Icebreaker Jenga

Getting the discussion rolling in my teen book club can be tough. Especially when the teens don’t know each other. To get things started I made an icebreaker version of Jenga (I saw this on Pinterest somewhere, but can’t find the pin now). It’s very simple to make. I just got a generic Jenga game from Dollar General, typed up some icebreaker questions, and taped them to the game pieces. It’s played like regular Jenga, but you have to answer the question on whatever piece you pull.

The teens went crazy over this game and it really helped everyone get comfortable with each other before discussing the book. They wanted to play it at the start of every meeting. It helps if you have a mix of silly questions and standard get-to-know-you questions.

Note: The chess club teens also flipped out over Book Lover’s Jenga, which is similar but is actually an official Jenga game and dedicated to bookish questions. One of them even asked if he could take it home with him.