Many people have asked me about a book club "Reading Guide" for BEFORE MY EYES, my new young adult for teens age 14 above--and adults of all ages (St. Martin's Press, 2014). BEFORE MY EYES is the kind of novel--about three fragile teens, mental illness, gun violence--that does delve deeply into complex characters and situations, provokes debate, and charges up opinions.I hope this is a helpful guide...
BOOK CLUB "READING GUIDE" for BEFORE MY EYES by Caroline Bock
Towards the end of the novel, Claire’s mother, says: “We are all fragile,” in trying to come to terms with the gun violence her daughter has just witnessed. How are these characters “fragile?” Which one of the main characters: Claire or Max or Barkley do you empathize with the most? The least? And why?
There are several key secondary teen characters in the novel—Jackson, Samantha, Peter and Trish—how do these characters help shape the story? What insights do these characters give you about Claire or Max or Barkley?
What does Claire’s relationship with her younger sister, Izzy, tell you about her character? Do you know someone like Claire, who is the primary caregiver for her siblings? How does this kind of responsibility impact a teen’s life?
Claire writes poetry about the major events in her life. What did you think of her poetry? Do you write poetry or songs? If Claire wasn’t a poet but a songwriter, what would be her song? What would be Max’s song? Barkley’s?
Barkley, who is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, reaches out to Claire through a false persona on the internet. What does the interaction of Claire and Barkley tell us about each character? Have you ever questioned the identity of anyone you have met on line?
All summer, Max Cooper obsesses about a soccer goal kick gone wide, which resulted in his team losing a big game. Have you ever tried to achieve something—
in sports, in life, which missed its mark? How did it make you feel?
Max is also obsessing about a girl at the beach, Samantha. Ultimately, he realizes that Samantha is not for him, but only after he looks beyond her bikinis and flirtatiousness to Claire. What does this tell us about Max? About Claire? Have you ever had to look beyond the obvious in a person?
The novel is set at a Long Island, New York beach and many of the characters, including Max, Barkley, Peter, and Trish, work together at the Snack Shack. How does this setting shape their relationships? Have you ever worked at a summer job that you thought was the worse job ever?
If you were going to imagine a next chapter in the novel, where would Claire, Max and Barkley be in their lives? In particular, what do you think happens on the day after the novel ends, the Wednesday, to each one of them?
Why do you think the author titled this novel, Before My Eyes? What is being seen and not seen? Are there things in your life that you let parents and/or friends see and things that you hide? How does Max secretly taking prescription drugs, or Claire talking to a stranger on the internet, or Barkley suffering from mental illness highlight this theme of seeing and not seeing? How or why is there a certain irony inherit in this title?
One of the main themes of the novel centers around the onset of mental illness, in particular, paranoid schizophrenia on the behalf of Barkley. What clues does the author give us that this character is suffering from this disease? Does it make you more or less sympathetic toward Barkley? Toward his parents?
In recent years there has been a number of violent incidents with young men and guns against their communities. In fact, some of the scenes in Before My Eyes are reflective of the 2011 tragedy in Tucson, Arizona where Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others were shot and six people killed by Jared Loughner, 22 years old,eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and given a life sentence for his crimes. Does reading Before My Eyes in light of those incidents, and other incidents of gun violence in American society, shape your point of view on guns in America?
Thank you for reading BEFORE MY EYES...Caroline