BOOKS FOR TEENS
1. Bubble World begins as a satire of popular culture. What aspects of Freesia’s life on Agalinas remind you of things you’ve seen in books, on TV, and in magazines?
2. Do you think Freesia would have remained happy on the island if she had stayed for years without ever learning the truth about “the mainland”?
3. Which of Freesia’s friendships were more “real” – the ones on the island or the ones at her high school?
4. How do you think technology affects the way teens relate to each other and to their parents?
5. Would you participate in a “virtual learning community” if given the chance?
1. Do you like Madison? Would you want to be friends with her? Why or why not?
2. What does Madison’s love of photography tell you about her values and personality?
3. Why isn’t Madison closer to her parents? Is it anyone’s fault? Do you think they will have a better relationship in Sandyland?
4. Madison thinks Delilah makes a good “summer friend.” Is that a judgment against Delilah — or against Madison’s entire life in Sandyland?
5. Why does Madison dye her hair? Does it affect her perception of herself?
6. How would you feel if your parents told you you had lost all of your material things and had to move?
7. How does Madison’s perception of herself change after she visits Amerige? Was Lexie wrong to start dating Rolf?
8. Why does Madison keep checking her camera, even after it begins to frighten her?
9. Why does it take Madison so long to fully appreciate Duncan and Delilah?
1. Why is Claire dissatisfied by her appearance? If you had to choose, would you rather be strong and plain or beautiful and weak?
2. Why do Claire and Beanie make fun of Larissa when they first see her on the beach?
3. Is Claire more attracted to Nate’s inner or outer beauty? Would she still like him if he were average-looking?
4. Claire is never interested in Beanie’s friendship until she has switched into her body. What does she learn about Beanie that makes her want to get to know her better?
5. What did you think of Evelyn? Is she really trying to help Claire — or simply make her own existence a little more interesting?
6. Why aren’t Claire and her mother closer? Do you think they will have a better relationship after Dr. Martin tells Claire about her father?
7. What would have happened if Larissa had had to leave town before Claire was able to switch out of her body?
8. Is Claire’s switching ability a blessing or a curse?
BOOKS FOR ADULTS
WHAT CAME FIRST
1. What did you think of Laura, Wendy and Vanessa when they were first introduced? Did you sympathize with one character more than the others? Did your opinion of the women change as the novel progressed?
2. What was your reaction when Vanessa didn’t get an engagement ring for her birthday from Eric? Did you feel like her anger was justified? Were her expectations in the relationship reasonable? How would you have reacted in that situation if you were Vanessa?
3. On page 16 Wendy says that when she and Darren were trying to become pregnant the very idea of being childless sent her into a depression and she states, “How could I ever lead a full life without a house full of little people to call my own?” How do you feel about this statement? Do you think it is possible for a person to lead a full life without children of their own?
4. Discuss the differences between Laura and Wendy’s parenting style. Do you think one of them parents better than the other? If so, why? What sort of parenting style do you think is most effective?
5. After Eric learns that his sperm donation gave life to Laura’s son Ian he tells Vanessa, “He’s not my child. He was conceived with my sperm, but he’s not mine” (page 125). What do you think about this statement? Do you think that a sperm donor is only a donor and should not be called a “father?” What should a donor’s role be, if any, in that a child’s life?
6. When we are first introduced to Wendy’s children, Wendy is adamant about not wanting the school psychologist to label them with having behavioral issues. Yet throughout the novel, she desperately seeks to find a reason for their unruly actions. Why do you think this is? What sorts of labels do adults frequently place on children? How does this affect their childhood?
7. How did you feel when Eric decided to meet Laura and then re-donate his sperm? Did you understand his decision? Do you think Vanessa should have been given an opinion in the process?
8. During Wendy’s scrapbooking party, Wendy remembers Sherry saying that she thought Wendy was being selfish for using a sperm donor. Sherry goes on to state that to get pregnant by a stranger instead of adoption shows that “it’s all about you and your ego that you have to have a kid with your genes” (page 210). Do you agree with Sherry? If you were Wendy, what would you have said in response?
9. How did you react to Wendy’s confession that she slept with Lane? At that moment did you think there was a chance that Darren wasn’t the father of Harrison and Sydney?
10. Why do you think Eric chose to get back in touch with Laura and Ian? Do you think he wanted to donate again? Do you think his feelings for Laura and Ian were sincere?
11. Throughout the novel, the story moves between the perspectives of Laura, Wendy and Vanessa. What knowledge do you gain by the story being told in this format? Did you find that this style provides you with a better understanding of the characters?
12. What did you know about IUI and IVF prior to reading this novel? Have your thoughts about the process changed after reading about these women?
13. Discuss the title of this novel. In what ways does it relate to the story and its characters?
14. Imagine what the lives of these characters are like after the novel. What role will Eric play in Ian’s life? What will become of Vanessa and Eric’s relationship? How about Wendy and Darren’s relationship?
JUST LIKE ME,ONLY BETTER
1. Do you look like a celebrity? Why are so many people intrigued by the idea of celebrity look-a-likes?
2. If your child had the opportunity to appear in a movie or television show, would you agree?
3. What effect do you think celebrity has on children and/or teenagers?
4. Do you think Haley Rush’s emotional problems result from her her celebrity, her innate personality, or her upbringing?
What was your initial impression of Jay Sharpie? Did his later behavior surprise you in any way?
5. What is your assessment of Veronica and Hank’s co-parenting arrangement?
6. Is Veronica’s rash behavior while on her date with Brady believable? What outside forces can make a person behave “out of character”?
7. How might Veronica’s life progressed if she had never been hired to be Haley’s double?
8. What do you think will become of Haley?
HERE TODAY, GONE TO MAUI
1. Is Jane’s attraction to Jimmy purely physical? Is “opposites attract” a good thing?
2. Was Jane right to follow Jimmy to Maui, or should she have realized that their relationship wasn’t going to work out?
3. Why are disastrous vacations so often the most memorable?
4. Jane can’t imagine giving everything up to move to Maui. Is she being sensible? Or close-minded?
5. Michael says Tiara is smarter than she seems. Do you agree?
6. Jane blames her string of failed relationships on her parents’ divorce. Are there any other factors in play?
7. What does Jane learn from her trip to Maui?
8. Which tastes better after a day at the beach — a mai tai or a pina colada?
1. Is it wrong for Natalie and her friends to make up stories about themselves, or is it all in good fun? Have you ever told any tall tales in similar circumstances?
2. Do teachers have an obligation to hold a higher moral standard than other adults — both inside and outside the classroom?
3. When Natalie discovers that Robert is illiterate, she tracks him down and spends a great deal of time and energy getting him back on track. Did she have any kind of obligation to him? Should teachers be expected to be all things — social worker, instructor, surrogate parent — to all of their students?
4. Natalie lives with her parents out of financial necessity. In doing so, she enjoys a much higher standard of living than if she were living on her own. Does this living arrangement stunt her maturity in any way? Should young adults live on their own at any cost — both for their own sakes and for their parents’?
5. Characters’ use of the Internet affects relationships throughout the novel. In what ways does the Internet and other technology make platonic and romantic relationships easier? How can it complicate them?
6. Late in the novel, Snow writes: “Arizona possessed an overriding sense of newness, of promise, of reinvention. But were the six-month-old houses any different, any better, than the ten-year-old houses? And what of my own reinvention, my new beginning After a year and a half in this place, I was still me — plain old Natalie.” Can moving to a new place provide an opportunity to forge a new identity? Or are you the same person no matter where you live?
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
1. Early on, Kathy feels her life would have been perfect had she married Tim. What is her real problem? What might her life had been like if she and Tim had, in fact, gotten married?
2. Why does Kathy feel like Marcy has deserted her? How have marriage and family changed your long-term friendships?
3. Marcy seems to have the perfect life, yet she feels dissatisfied. Why?
4. As her roommate, does Kathy have any obligation to help Tiffany adjust to college?
Kathy learns early on that the Alternative Prom Queens have no connection to the call girl ring. Why doesn’t she quit the group?
5. After Dennis interviews Amber, Kathy has an opportunity to prove herself by writing an expose, yet she chooses not to. Why doesn’t she write the article? Should she have?
6. How does Kathy’s relationship with Jeremy differ from her relationship with Tim?
7. Is Jeremy right to stay in Boston with Kathy, or should he take her advice and travel for a year?
8. If you had a chance to revisit your young adult years, what, if anything, would you do differently?