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This reading group guide for Split Endsincludes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jacquelin Thomas. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Kylie Sanderson is sixteen and homeless, living on the streets of Los Angeles after running away from her neglectful mother, Serena. With no friends, no family, and no safe place to stay, she’s scared and alone, until an older homeless woman and a kind local business owner take her under their wings, offering her a job at a well-known salon. Kylie becomes friends with her coworker Rhyann, and through her, she befriends Divine, Mimi, and Alyssa, forming the “fab five B.F.F. club.” But Kylie has a secret she’s keeping from everyone, and she knows that if they find out, it could ruin her newfound happiness. In the end, Kylie learns that true friends will stand by you no matter what, you can create your own family, and dreams sometimes do come true.
Questions for Discussion
1. Do you think Kylie made the right decision to run away from her mother because their life together was too unstable, or did she jump into an even more chaotic and dangerous situation?
2. In her first couple of days on the streets, Kylie encounters other teenagers who have turned to drugs and shoplifting, and a pimp who tries to lure her into prostitution. Do you think if Kylie had not met Miss Lucy and Miss Marilee, she would have continued to resist, or would she have allowed herself to be pulled into that lifestyle in order to survive? What other options besides a life of crime are available to a teenager on the streets?
3. Before she meets Divine, Kylie reads about her in a magazine and fantasizes about how perfect her life must be. Why are we so inclined to think other people’s lives, particularly those of celebrities, are so much better than our own? Is anyone ever completely happy, or is that a naïve assumption?
4. Miss Lucy is a former war veteran who turned to alcohol and ended up on the streets. Now she cannot receive her veteran’s benefits because she has no address. Do you think it’s common for people who have served their country to fall between the cracks like this? Should there be better systems in place to ensure this doesn’t happen?
5. Divine tells Kylie, “Stop being a victim. . . . we accept you as you are. The problem is that you seem to want us to change who we are. . . .” (page 196) While Kylie thinks that her friends are judging her, is she actually the one judging them? Can snobbery work in both directions?
6. Kylie is determined not to get too close to Chandler or any other boy, so that she’s not distracted from her dreams of finishing high school and going to college. Do you think this is an unreasonable fear, based on her mother’s relationships with men, or is this a valid concern? What did you think of Kylie’s purity ring? Do you know anyone who has taken a purity vow?
7. When Mimi and Divine try to give Kylie some of their hand me down clothing, she doesn’t want to accept it. Divine tells her, “God has blessed my family so that we can be a blessing to others.” (page 148) Why is Kylie willing to accept help from Miss Marilee, but so reluctant to accept it from her friends? Do you agree with Divine that those who have been given many blessings have a responsibility to share those blessings?
8. Kylie tells Chandler, “The truth is that not all homeless people are druggies or have mental problems. They are normal people like you and me. ” (page 191) Did this make you think of homeless people differently? Did you have a preconceived notion of what homeless people are like, or what they had done to end up on the streets?
9. Kylie believes that if Serena really loved her, she would be a better mother, but Miss Marilee suggests that she might be doing the best she can, having given birth to Kylie when she was only fourteen. Do her circumstances excuse her behavior? Either way, does Kylie owe it to her mother to forgive her? Does Serena deserve respect, or must she, as Kylie says, earn that respect?
10. At the end of the novel, Kylie says, “. . . being related doesn’t always make you family—love is what makes you a family.” (page 231) What do you think about this statement? Is family based on bloodlines, or can it be a choice?
Activities to Enhance Your Book Club
1. On average, there are 1.35 million homeless children and 400,000 homeless veterans annually in the United States. To learn more about the problem, visit National Coalition of the Homeless at www.nationalhomeless.org.
2. Before they get their own apartment, Kylie and Miss Lucy rely heavily on the people at the Safe Harbor Mission. Get the members of your group together to volunteer at a local soup kitchen one Saturday, or help build a house with a Habitat for Humanity group.
3. Jacquelin Thomas has written a previous series of books about Divine and her friends. To learn more, visit www.SimplyDivineBooks.com.
A Conversation with Jacquelin Thomas
Q. You’ve written for both teenagers and adults. Does your process change from one to the other? Is there one audience you prefer writing for?
A . I love writing for both audiences, and it’s interesting that my audience as a whole seems to read both genres. I have adults who read the YA books and teens reading my adult books. The process is the same—only the mentality of my characters changes.
Q. Kylie’s friends are always pitching in to help each other. Do you have your own “B.F.F. club”? What are your best friends like?
A . I don’t have a lot of best friends, but the ones I have are wonderful! They know who I am and they still love me.
Q. Mimi tells Kylie that “having each other’s back is part of the B.F.F. code.” What would you consider to be your basic rules of friendship? If you were writing a B.F.F. code, what would be in it?
A . My rules would be: 1. Be honest with each other. 2. Know each other’s faults and love each another in spite of them. 3. Have each other’s back unless it’s something illegal and/or immoral. 4. Show yourself worthy of their trust.
Q. You deal with some serious issues in Split Ends, such as panic disorder, homelessness, and abuse. What kind of research did you do in writing those scenes? How do you find the right balance between getting a message across and entertaining your readers?
A . I actually suffer from panic disorder, so I know from experience how anxiety can cripple you. I’ve volunteered to help the homeless and have heard their stories of how they ended up on the streets. I don’t just set out to entertain my readers—I also want to educate them on real life, but not to the point of beating them over the head with my message. I want readers to pause for a moment and just consider what is going on, and how it relates to their experiences or of those of someone they may know.
Q. What made you decide to make the transition from writing traditional romance to writing with Christian themes?
A . It was my relationship with God. He has always been a part of my life, and so it was natural to include Him in the world I created for my characters.
Q. Miss Marilee feels that she has been blessed so she can bless others, and puts a lot of emphasis on service, without expecting anything back. Is there someone who was there for you at a time when you really needed it?
A . Jesus said that He came to serve and not to be served. This is His desire for us as well. I’ve found true contentment whenever I’m helping others. I’ve had many angels in my lifetime—people who reached out to me when I needed them and I believe in paying it forward.
Q. Kylie and Miss Lucy use a lot of unusual expressions, like calling chicken the “gospel bird” (page 64) or saying a boy couldn’t “hit a lick with a snake,” (page 94) to mean that he wasn’t ambitious. Are there any regional or family expressions you use that your readers may not have heard before?
A . I’m from Georgia, so the expressions in the book are the ones I grew up hearing.
Q. Who are your favorite writers? What do you read for fun?
A . I love mysteries and especially books by James Patterson, but I also love historical fiction, and read a lot of historical romance as well as most authors writing in the Christian fiction genre.
Q. Throughout the novel, the characters refer back to the Bible. Do you have a favorite passage from scripture? What is it, and why?
A . I guess it would be Habakkuk 3:17–19, because it talks about how Habakkuk lost everything, but he continued to rejoice in the Lord because God is his strength and has equipped him to endure trials and tribulations. I believe that we find out what we’re really made of when we go through hardships. Oftentimes, we feel life isn’t fair and we pout, but another way to look at our struggles is this: The harder the struggle, the more faith God has in us. He knows just how much we can bear, so when life gets rough, just know that God is there cheering you on, because He knows that you can make it through! He just wants you to realize it, too, and trust that He’s already worked it out.
Q. Your previous novel, Hidden Blessings, was made into a movie. If Split Ends were a movie, are there actresses you picture for any of the roles?
A . Divine: KeKe Palmer (True Jackson, VP; Akeelah and the Bee) Kylie: Erica Hubbard (Lincoln Heights) Mimi: Sahara Garey (Akeelah and the Bee; That’s So Raven; Everybody Hates Chris) Rhyann: Kiely Williams (The Cheetah Girls)
Jacquelin Thomas' books have garnered several awards, including two EMMA awards, the Romance In Color Reviewers Award, Readers Choice Award, and the Atlanta Choice Award in the Religious & Spiritual category. She was nominated for a 2008 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction in the Young Adult category. Jacquelin has published in the romance, inspirational fiction and young adult genres.