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About The Book

A teen takes a bottle of pills and lands in the psych ward with the bully who drove him to attempt suicide in this gripping novel.

Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital.
Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn’t stop Bull’s grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.
When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there’s no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

By K.M. Walton

Discussion Questions

1. Who do you think had worse parents, Bull or Victor? Why do you think that?

2. Who do you think made the most personal growth by the end of the book, Bull or Victor? Explain.

3. Do you think Bull or Victor would have survived if they hadn’t ended up in the psych ward? Why or why not?

4. Who do you think influenced Bull the most? How about Victor?

5. If you met Victor right now, what would you say to him? How about Bull?

6. Put yourself in Victor’s shoes. What would you do differently? The same? How about if you were in Bull’s shoes? Explain your answers.

7. At what point in Cracked do you feel Bull grows as a human being? How about Victor? What makes you think that?

8. Think of one prediction you had while reading the book and reflect on it. Did it happen? If not, what happened instead? How did making the prediction and reflecting on it help you to understand the book better?


1. Write a letter to Victor or Bull as if he were your best friend. What would you tell him?

2. Describe the part in Cracked that impacted you the most.

3. Describe the most courageous part of Cracked. Explain it in detail. What made this scene/part so daring?

4. Make a connection between Cracked and your own life, another story, or something in the world. Write about this connection in detail—describe the relation and why it is so significant. How did making that connection help you to understand the book better?

5. Write about a time when you faced a challenge and how you dealt with it.

6. Which characters in Cracked took a risk for something they believed in? Why did they take these risks?

7. How do Bull and Victor show courage? Choose two experiences and explain.

8. Make a compare/contrast chart or Venn diagram comparing/contrasting Bull and Victor. How are they alike? How are they different?

9. Choose a scene from Cracked and rewrite it as a film script.

10. Make a collage of images and words to represent the main idea of Cracked or one of the characters.

11. Write an interview between you and one of the characters from Cracked about their courageous experience. Be sure to use details from the book.

12. Write a news bulletin about a major event in Cracked. Be sure to include all of the necessary details – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

13. Draw a portrait of one of the main characters from Cracked. Make your drawing based on the character’s descriptions written by the author. Label your drawing with key descriptions that apply to the character.

14. Write a detailed summary of your favorite part in Cracked. Explain why it is your favorite. Then, rewrite the scene but change something about it – the characters involved, the setting, the problem, the outcome, etc. Or rewrite the scene from the point of view of another character in the story.

15. Think of an experience in your life when you showed/displayed courage. How did you feel when you finally reached your goal? How is this similar to a character(s) in Cracked?

16. Write instructions on how to be courageous. Use details from Cracked to help you.

17. The characters’ feelings often changed throughout Cracked, especially when they faced challenges. Make a chart to show how the character’s feelings changed from the beginning, to the middle, and then finally in the end. Be sure to explain why the change happened each time.

18. Choose someone you think is courageous, such as a friend, family member, or public figure. Brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe the person. Using your brainstormed list, describe the person in a collage with pictures, words, and/or phrases.

19. Choose three adjectives that describe a courageous person and write a paragraph or poem explaining courage.

20. Write a letter from one of the main characters to yourself as if you are friends. The letter can ask for advice, or describe a problem or experience.

Guide written by the author.

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.

About The Author

Photograph [c] Todd Walton

K. M. Walton is the author of Cracked and Empty. A former middle school language arts teacher and teaching coach, she is passionate about education and ending peer bullying. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter at @KMWalton1.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (December 4, 2012)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442429178
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Awards and Honors

  • Keystone to Reading Book Award Reading List (PA)
  • ILA Young Adults' Choices
  • ALA Quick Picks Nominee

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More books from this author: K. M. Walton