Pay It Forward

A Novel

Pay It Forward

An immediate bestseller when first published, Pay It Forward captured hearts all over the world, became a wildly popular film starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, and spawned a generation of increased altruism. This fifteenth anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the author. It takes an inspiring and moving tale of a young boy who believed in the power of kindness and brings it to a new generation of readers.

Twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney accepts his social studies teacher’s challenge: come up with a plan to change the world. His idea is simple: Do a good deed for three people and ask them to “pay it forward” to three others in need. He envisions a vast movement of kindness and goodwill spreading beyond his small California town and across the world. The project, however, appears to falter. Jerry, a bum who receives some allowance money from Trevor, returns to a life of dissolution. Trevor wants his pretty, hardworking mother—a woman who raised him lovingly despite struggles with alcoholism—to marry his teacher, Reuben St. Clair. Reuben is a scarred, bitter, untrusting man with a disfiguring injury from Vietnam. He seems to come alive only when in front of his class. For a time that matchmaking brings nothing but problems. Ultimately, though, unusual things start to happen. Crime rates dip across the nation, and nobody seems to know why. Then a journalist tracks down the source: an epidemic of random acts of kindness.

Anyone who has ever despaired of one person’s ability to effect change will rejoice in Trevor’s courage and determination to see the good in everyone.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743203890 | 
  • March 2000
List Price $12.99

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Pay It Forward includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.

 

Introduction

Trevor McKinney was not an exceptional student. In fact, as the child of a single mom who worked two jobs and battled alcoholism, he had more strikes against him than most of his classmates when it came to succeeding in school or in life. He was never going to change the world, or achieve anything close to that. But things aren’t always what they seem. An ordinary social studies extra-credit assignment provided the inspiration for Trevor to unleash the seeds of hope and compassion that had taken root in his heart, and nothing was ever the same again. Pay It Forward is the compelling story of one boy’s journey to hang on to hope for change in the world, against all odds.

 

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. What was your favorite part of Pay It Forward? Describe.

2. If you were a student in Reuben St. Clair’s class, how would you have responded to him in light of his physical appearance? How did you feel about Trevor’s response to him? What do you think Trevor s see more

Articles About This Book

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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Catherine Ryan Hyde

When I began seriously pursuing writing (around 1991) I was told that my novels were literary and “little.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, except that it seemed to portend that they would remain little known. Somehow I broke out of that...

More Books from this Author

The internationally bestselling book that inspired the Pay It Forward movement is now available in a middle grade edition.Pay It Forward is a moving, uplifting novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts his teacher’s challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world. Trevor’s idea is simple: do a good deed for three people, and instead of asking them to return the favor, ask them to “pay it forward”...

About the Author

Catherine Ryan Hyde
Photograph © Charlotte Alexander

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of twenty-five books, which include Where We Belong, When You Were Older, Walk Me Home, When I Found You, Don’t Let Me Go, The Language of Hoofbeats, and Take Me With You, among others. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in various literary magazines. Following the success of Pay It Forward, Catherine founded the Pay It Forward Foundation and served as president until 2009. She lives in California with her dog, Ella, and their cat, Jordan. To learn more about the foundation and other forthcoming books, visit CatherineRyanHyde.com.

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