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Stop Pretending
Questions for discussion
1. What did you think about Molly’s and Kate’s reactions to finding out that Cookie’s sister was in a mental hospital? Why do you think they reacted like they did? Do you know anyone who has had to be hospitalized for mental illness? If so, how did you react? If not, how do you think you would react?
2. Remember back to a time when you wish you had been a better friend. Why is it sometimes so hard to do what you know in your heart is the right thing to do? What outside pressures do you find yourself considering when deciding what to do in a complex situation?
3. When Cookie’s sister gets sick, it throws the whole rest of the family off-kilter. Is there anyone in your family who is throwing the whole rest of the family off-kilter? How do you feel about that person? Are the feelings you have about them simple or complicated?
4. What are some ways you can support a friend or family member who is going through a hard time? What are some ways that you have been supported, when you were going through a hard time? Are there things you should avoid doing or saying when trying to comfort a friend? Can you point out examples of these kinds of things in this book? What helped Cookie feel better? What made her feel worse? If you were present when someone was being bullied or teased or made fun of for having mental illness, or for any other reason, what are some things you could do to help them?
5. In a way, when Cookie’s sister has her breakdown, she becomes a different person. It is almost as if the sister Cookie knew and loved has died. How do the emotions that Cookie experiences mirror the emotions of someone who is grieving for a loved one? Have you ever lost a person close to you? How did you deal with that loss?
6. Stop Pretending is based on the author’s own experiences. Did you realize that when you were reading the book? If so, what effect did knowing it have on you? In what way does knowing that a story is true effect your enjoyment of it?
7. Cookie’s life is thrown into turmoil when her sister gets sick and her friends snub her. But then she meets John. Why do you think she is so drawn to him at this particular time in her life?
8. When Cookie is given a camera for her birthday, she brings it with her to the hospital to show her sister. The camera ends up helping them to connect in a deeper way than they have been able to since her sister has been sick. Why do you think this happens?
9. How do Cookie’s parents react to her sister’s illness? Do you think they are good parents?
10. How did the poem called “My Sister’s Christmas Eve Breakdown” (p. 2-3) make you feel as you were reading it? What effect did the repetition of the word “stranger” have on you? What effect did the final use of the word in the poem have on you?
11. Stop Pretending is a novel in verse. Why do you think the author chose to tell this story in poems? What effect did this have on your emotional reaction to the story? Do you think this story would have affected you the same way whether it had been told in poetry or in prose? Have you read any other novels in verse? What do you like or dislike about this form of storytelling?
12. Most of the poems in Stop Pretending were written in free verse, which means they have no specific rhythm. But some of the poems do. Read aloud the poem called “Midnight Swing” (p. 14-15). Why do you think the author chose to use this particular rhythm when writing this poem? How does the rhythm of a poem affect the way in which the reader experiences it? Look through the book and see if you can identify the handful of other poems which were written in a specific rhythm.
13. Rhythm is only one of the tools used by poets. They also use rhyme and repetition. Can you point out examples of either of these techniques in this book? How do you think the author chose which poems should use rhyme and which should use repetition? What are some other tricks that poets have up their sleeves? What makes a poem a poem?
14. There is a lot of blank white space surrounding each poem in this book. What effect do you think this blank space has on the reader? The author uses very few words to paint a picture of each scene in the story, adding adjectives and adverbs only very sparingly. How do you think she was able to paint such clear pictures without using these types of words?
15. Cookie never comes right out and says, “I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m worried.” And yet, the reader is able to tell that Cookie feels all of these emotions. How does the author accomplish this?
16. At two different points in the story, Cookie’s family plays a game together. The first time, they play Monopoly (p. 48-49) and the second time, they play Scrabble (p. 142-143). What happens during each of these games? Why do you think the second time they play together is so different from the first? What might have influenced the author when she was deciding which words should be placed on the Scrabble board? How did that second game leave you feeling after you read it? Why do think it made you feel that way?
17. Though there has been some progress since this book was first published in 1999, there is still a stigma against people afflicted with mental illness. The victims of these diseases are often afraid to seek help because they fear they will be made fun of. Why do you think people feel it’s okay to joke about those who are suffering from mental illness? Does the media (movies, TV shows, newspaper articles, etc.) play a part in encouraging this stigma to continue? Does advertising play a part? Can you think of any examples to illustrate your point? Are there any TV shows or movies that deal with mentally ill characters compassionately?
18. How can you personally help to obliterate the stigma against the victims of mental illness?
Stop Pretending
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Copyright 2004-. Sonya Sones. All rights reserved.
To Be Perfectly Honest Stop Pretending What My Mother Doesn't Know What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies The Hunchback of Neiman-Marcus Necessary Noise Sixteen Saving Red The Opposite of Innocent