And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted - nevermore! -- from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
At once an homage to one of America's greatest writers and a page-turning psychological mystery that is equal parts horror, humor, and romance, NEVERMORE is the story of Varen -- a Poe-fan and goth -- and Isobel -- a cheerleader and unlikely heroine. When a Lit. project pairs the two together, Isobel finds herself steadily swept into Varen's world, one that he has created in his notebook and in his mind, one where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel slowly learns that dreams can be much more powerful than she'd ever expected, and that pain and despair come in all shades. As labels of "goth" and "cheerleader" fade away, she sees more in Varen than a tall, pale outcast, and a consuming romance is braced against the ever-clearer horror that the most terrifying realities are those within our own minds.
When Isobel has a single chance to rescue Varen from the shadows of his own nightmares, will she be able to save him -- and herself?
1. Early in their work on the Poe project, Varen discusses the identity of Lenore with Isobel, calling her the love of the narrator. How is this notion of the narrator's lost love an important element in the story? In what other ways do Isobel and Varen's initial work on their project foreshadow events to come?
2. In addition to his interest in Poe, Varen knows a good deal about dreams and their relationship to real life. What clues in this scene suggest that Poe also knew much about the nature of dreams? What does Isobel learn from talking with Varen and how does she relate their conversation to the frightening experiences that happen in her bedroom?
3. How does Reynolds first enter Isobel's consciousness? What important information does he give her about dreaming? Initally, do you think Reynolds is Isobel's friend, enemy, or something in-between? How does that change over time?
4. When does Pinfeathers first appear to Isobel? Why do you think none of her classmates can see or hear the Nocs? What important messages do Nocs convey to Isobel in the course of the novel?
5. When Isobel finds herself in a dreamlike version of Mr. Swanson's class, she reads Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken." Why is this poem apt for the moment in which Isobel finds herself? How does Mr. Swanson's comment about choices relate to Isobel's experiences with Varen and Brad?
6. What is the Red Death? How is it related to the white-veiled woman? To the Nocs? How do you know the Red Death has been involved in what happened to Brad, and why do you think Brad has been chosen for this torment?
7. When Isobel escapes from the Grim Façade, she returns home to startling news about Varen and Brad. If you had found yourself in Isobel's situation, what choices might you have made about answering police questions, confiding in Gwen, dealing with Brad, and trying to find Varen?
8. While Isobel sees elements of the dream world Varen has created in her real life, she ultimately maintains a stronger hold on reality than he does. What makes her able to keep a distinction between her world and the dream world? What do you think makes Varen more susceptible to being engrossed in this alternate dimension?
9. Varen once told Isobel, "You could never be Lenore." Yet, does the epilogue imply that Isobel has become Varen's Lenore? Do you think there remains any hope of Isobel rescuing Varen? Does Isobel herself need rescuing?
10. In Nevermore, Varen tells Isobel that “Alone” is his favorite work by Poe and reads the poem aloud to her. Reread “Alone” and discuss how this poem relates to Varen’s life and to his character. How does this poem relate to the novel’s epilogue? What imagery is shared?
11. Discuss how the author uses parallels in the novel: for example, the real world and the dream world, Isobel and Bess, Varen and Pinfeathers. What do these parallels represent, and what does their existence say about the characters in the book?
12. Read at least two of Poe’s works mentioned in the novel (“Alone” or “Ulalume”, for example) and consider the way he ends his stories and poems. Are the resolutions what you expect? Are they satisfying? Compare the endings of Poe’s stories to the ending of Nevermore.
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Kelly Creagh is a 2008 graduate of Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. When not writing, haunting bookstore coffee shops, or obsessively studying Poe, Kelly’s passions include the ancient art of bellydance. She lives with her squirrely, attitude-infused dogs—Annabel, Jack, and Holly—in the heart of Old Louisville, Kentucky’s largest and spookiest Victorian neighborhood. Kelly is the author of the Nevermore trilogy. Visit her at KellyCreagh.com.