What She Left Behind

About The Book

In this suspenseful thriller, Sara and her mother are going to secretly escape her abusive father—when her mother mysteriously disappears.

Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.
     With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.

Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR:


What She Left Behind


by Tracy Bilen

1. Why doesn't Sara tell anyone except Zach her suspicions about her mom? Is there anyone else she could have or should have told? Would you have told someone else, if you were in her situation? Why or why not?

2. Alex starts showing an interest in Sara right around when her mom goes missing. In what ways is her growing relationship with him good for her during this time, and how is it bad? Why didn't Sara tell Alex about her mom?

3. For English class Sara writes a lot about her family. What do you learn about them and about her from these essays?

4. Sara and her mom watch a TV soap opera, Winds of Change. How is the main character, Julia, like Sara's mother?

5. What has made Sara's dad so violent and crazy? What was he like back when the family lived in Philadelphia?

6. Early on, Sara says she is mad at her brother Matt for killing himself. Why do you think she is mad at him? Do you think that is a fair response for her to have?

7. At one point, after Sara's mom has been missing for many days, Sara thinks “I want to go home,” even though she's actually in her house. Why doesn't it feel like home to her now? What does home mean to you?

8. Were you surprised by the ending? Did anything in the story lead you to expect this outcome?

9. In the end, Sara says she still loves her dad: How can this be? If you learned a parent or loved one did something criminal, do you think you would still love him or her?

10. Sara keeps the secret from her friends, teachers, and other family members that her mom is missing and that her dad might have killed her mom. What other characters have secrets that their friends and family don't know?

11. Do you think Sara faces her problems courageously? What are examples from the story that help you answer this? Explain, from your answer, what you think courage is.

Guide prepared by Jean Kowaleski.

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

Photo credit Angela Bilen.

Tracy Bilen is a high school teacher in Michigan where she lives with her husband and two children. She enjoys cross-country skiing and walks in the woods. You can visit Tracy online at tracybilen.com or on Twitter at @tracybilen.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (May 1, 2012)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442439528
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"In her debut young adult novel, Bilen takes us into the world of family secrets from a teen’s point of view. The ending includes a twist that will keep readers on the edge of their seats, and yet, once the book is closed, Sara’s story will remain with readers. This is truly a remarkable story of resilience with broad appeal for teens."
--VOYA, April 2012

"Quickly paced and with a dramatic conclusion."
--SLJ, June 2012

"Bilen reveals a chilling picture of domestic violence. Sharp prose and an increasingly tense plot make this debut a page-turner."
--Publishers Weekly (online), June 2012

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