Topics for Discussion

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1. Why does Melinda keep her rape a secret? When should she have told someone? Who could she have asked for help?

2. What does alcohol symbolize in this novel?

3. How do the changing mascots reflect Melinda's ambivalence? Is she a product of her environment?

4. What does friendship mean to each character? Do they comprehend what love is? How and why do relationships between characters change? Who do you envision being friends in the future?

5. Why are the foreign exchange students significant to plot development and characterizations?

6. How are Melinda's mother and Heather similar? How do Melinda and Heather use each other? Is there any basis for true friendship?

7. How do the cliques and their informal names symbolize the disunity of high school culture? Why is it so important for each character to be identified with a specific group? Why is not belonging undesirable? Discuss the roles of conformity, independence, assumptions, expectations, ostracism, and exclusion in teenage social systems.

8. Does the literary technique of withholding information and not divulging what happened to Melinda successfully heighten tension or frustrate readers? When does Anderson first provide a name instead of a pronoun for Melinda's attacker? Does this anonymous delay make Andy seem more sinister?

9. How does Melinda's successful resistance against Andy's second attack effectively bring resolution to the plot? Discuss the effectiveness of her minor acts of vengeance toward Andy, particularly writing his name in the bathroom graffiti and warning her former friend about him, foreshadow her recovery? Should she be punished for vandalizing school property?

10. Are males and females in this novel ever depicted stereotypically? Is this necessary for characterization?

11. Why is the weather and passage of seasons significant to plot development and the novel's tone? How does dividing the book by grading periods make readers aware of Melinda's mental decline?

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