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Lochan and Maya live with an alcoholic mother and three younger siblings. When their mother moves out and takes up primary residence with her boyfriend, Lochan and Maya are left to raise their younger siblings alone. Lochan, the eldest, is an exceptional student with high expectations but experiences social anxiety, which prevents him from making friends. Aware of her brother’s anxiety, Maya is protective and rushes to his side when he has anxiety attacks. Lochan, however, is the strong one at home. Fearing social services could intervene and separate them, Lochan and Maya cover for their mother’s absence. As the two deal with the stress and fear of raising three younger siblings and keeping their mother’s absence secret, they are drawn closer and closer together and realize the love they feel for each other bars social acceptance and is illegal.
We all must one day assume responsibility for our own lives; however, often we confront situations in which we must take on someone else’s responsibility. Discuss a time in which you had to take on a task or role unexpectedly that someone else was unable to handle. How did you manage the situation? What feelings did the added responsibility evoke and why? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?
1. Identify the five siblings in the story. What are their initial feelings toward their mother? Toward Lochan and Maya?
2. Characterize “Mum.” Is she a realistic character? Why or why not? Support your response with evidence from the story.
3. Compare and contrast Lochan and Maya. How do their differences complement each other? What bonds them together?
4. Lochan is a stellar student; however, he struggles making friends. What handicaps his ability to develop relationships? How does a teacher attempt to assist him?
5. How do Tiffin, Kit, and Willa deal with their mother’s absence? What emotions does each feel and how does each character evolve as the story progresses?
6. Why does Maya agree to go out with Nico DiMarco? How does she feel about her decision? How does her date affect Lochan? Describe Nico’s reaction to Maya’s rejection.
7. Francie is Maya’s sole friend. What role does she play in the story? How might the story be different without her?
8. Which sibling(s) is/are suspicious of Lochan and Maya’s secret relationship and why?
9. How do Willa and Tiffin deal with their mother’s extended absence? How does Kit deal with it? Why might there be a difference in their responses to her absence?
10. Tension brews between Lochan and Kit. Why is Kit rageful toward Lochan? Is his rage well placed? Why or why not?
11. What happens to Willa’s shoulder and why does Lochan feel guilty about the injury?
12. Kit plans to take a field trip and Willa and Tiffin have an opportunity to stay overnight with friends, leaving Lochan and Maya alone. What happens to Kit’s trip and how does the trip, or lack thereof, expose Lochan and Maya?
13. Lochan experiences feelings of depression and low self-confidence throughout the story. Identify two examples. How does his emotional state set up the ending of the story?
14. Lochan and Maya are “parentified” at an early age. Cite examples from the text that illustrate their role reversal with their mother.
15. Apart from the siblings and Mum, Francie is the only other character who has a significant role in the story. How does limiting the siblings’ interactions with others contribute to the development of their relationships and the story?
Questions for Further Discussion
1. A likeable character isn’t always a “good” character. (Ex. the Joker (Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight)). Is Mum a likeable character? Why or why not? What change in personality traits or behaviors would make her better or worse?
2. Research social services in your state. Under what conditions would a parent lose custody? What happens to youth when they are taken from their parents? Under what circumstances are they reunited? Who is responsible for reporting abuse and neglect to authorities?
3. In order to develop the relationship between Lochan and Maya, the author had to provide an opportunity or a situation for the relationship to develop. The author has Mum drift further and further from the family. How does this behavior contribute to the development of the plot? What other elements/events in the story facilitate or allow their relationship to develop?
4. Lochan experiences social anxiety. Describe his symptoms. What contributes to his anxiety? What lessens it? Do an Internet search of resources that are available for those who experience anxiety and share those with a group.
5. Mum screams when she enters the house and finds Lochan and Maya together. What reactions did you have to her rage? To her as a parent?
Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
This guide was written to align with the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org).