Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 594
1. Why does Brent initially rely on outward appearances and possessions to help him feel good about himself? What makes you feel good about yourself?
2. What does alcohol do to a person's ability to reason and make decisions?
3. How does the second chapter, "Weeksboro, Maine," fit into the story? It is a flash forward. Explain what that means. How did Fleischman have to think about his writing to write these independent stories that intersperse Brent's story?
4. In "The Afterlife" chapter, Brent wants punishment, and his father wants to "get him off" with no time in jail. React to Brent's feelings of guilt, remorse, and disinterest in life.
5. What is probation? Does it only refer to the justice system?
6. Fleischman writes, "We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can." What does this mean?
7. Do you remember doing something you did not think through that caused problems for yourself or someone else? What were the consequences? Did you have to make it right?
8. What is restitution? Restitution is part of Brent's probation sentence. What is atonement? How are restitution and atonement different?
9. Can the two words "I'm sorry" ever be enough? Explain. What would you ask of Brent for restitution?
10. Mrs. Zamora says she does not believe in retribution. What is it? How is it different from restitution?
11. Does everything happen for a reason? What could possibly be the reason for the death of Lea, a talented, wonderful young person?
12. What is your reaction to Mrs. Zamora's request? Why did Brent or his parents not have to pay Brent's way? They could certainly afford it.
13. Fleischman uses the word karass. What does it mean? Have you experienced karass? Share your experience.
14. How do the chapters, "Miami, Florida"; "Bellevue, Washington"; and "San Diego, California" relate to Brent?
15. Emil, the German student Brent meets in San Diego, tells Brent his father's favorite quote, "A teacher lives forever through his students." Explain the meaning of this. How is this true of you and teachers in your life?
16. Brent thinks about his life in compartments. They are life before the accident, his first life, and life after the accident which he calls "The Afterlife." Can you explain his disconnected feelings?
17. In Bellevue, Washington, Anthony, an adopted Korean boy, throws a rock at Brent's whirligig because of the incessant noise it makes. His mother has a different perspective of it. How did Brent hope people might react to the whirligig?
18. Why was Brent able to confess to the painter in Weeksboro, Maine, that he was responsible for Lea's death and that he had been trying to end his own life?
19. How did the painter's statement change Brent's view of himself? "I could be wildly wrong. But my sense of you is that you're a good person, not a bad one."
20. Taking one's own life is called suicide. It is a very serious matter and definitely frowned on by the majority of people in this society. Why is it an unacceptable behavior? Would Brent have solved any of his problems had he succeeded? Is suicide ever an answer to a person's problems? What happens to the people who are left behind?
21. Brent's life is changed with the completion of the fourth whirligig. Explain the change.
22. What have you learned about choices and the consequences of those choices? How do you make choices? What guides you in making good choices?
23. Describe the development of the protagonist, Brent Bishop.
24. Discuss the effectiveness of the plot structure Fleischman has chosen.
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