Now You See Me...

Reader's Guide

 

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Two years ago a teacher at an Orthodox Jewish high school told me she suspected that a few of her female students were cutting themselves.

"How do you know?" I asked.

I recall being disturbed and saddened, but not shocked. The Orthodox community attempts to shelter its own from the dangers of the secular world, but no community is invulnerable.

"Five months ago these girls were pushing the envelope, coming this close to violating the school's dress policy," the teacher said. "Now their sleeves cover their wrists-even when the temperature's in the eighties. So I know."

I had been contemplating writing a novel about teens at risk. I had a folder thick with articles I'd clipped from newspapers and magazines: Teens and the Internet. Teens and chat room predators. Teens who self-mutiliate. Teens who cheat. Teens with eating disorders. The risk of suicide for teens taking antidepressants.

Now You See Me explores the challenges faced by young people on the verge of adulthood, young people who are eager to establish their own identities, but are frightened and confused. Young people who may feel disenfranchised, isolated, burdened with their parents' expectations and their own feelings of inadequacy, pressured by their peers, desperate to fit in. Young people, and those no longer young, who feel that no one really sees them.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

1. Molly initially resists agreeing to search for Hadassah Bailor. She feels inadequate to the task and has unresolved issues with Hadassah's father. Did you sympathize with her reluctance, or did you find it petty? What made Molly overcome that reluctance?

2. Rumor and innuendo can permanently damage a person's reputation, and by extension, that of a family, especially within a close-knit, traditional community like Hadassah's. Can you understand why the Bailors didn't want to involve an outsider in their search for Hadassah? Would you have handled the situation differently?

3. What was your impression of Rabbi Bailor? Of his wife, Nechama? Of their son, Gavriel? Of Aliza, Hadassah's sister? Of Reuben Jastrow? Did your impression of these characters change throughout the course of the novel?

4. How would you describe the dynamics of the Bailor family? Do you think the Bailors are representative of the average American family? In what way, if any, did they contribute to Hadassah's feelings of isolation? Do you think they ignored signs that Hadassah was unhappy, or was Hadassah effective in hiding her feelings?

5. How did you feel about Sarah, Hadassah's best friend? Do you fault her for keeping Hadassah's secret about her online boyfriend?

6. Aside from the opening chapter, I intended to tell the story entirely from Molly's point of view. But Hadassah insisted on having her own "voice." How did her "voice" affect the story?

7. At what point did you become worried about Hadassah's safety? What factors intensified your concern? Did you fear that, like Shakespeare's Juliet, she would kill herself?

8. Do you think teens are at greater risk today than they were a decade ago? If so, why? Does the media exaggerate and possibly contribute to the problem? How can we reduce the risks teenagers face? How can we protect them? Empower them?

9. Do you think that parents are na´ve about the dangers of the Internet and lax in monitoring their children's online activities? Aside from the tips mentioned in the novel, do you have other suggestions?

10. Do you see a difference between cheating on an exam and buying term papers or other material on line? In what way do schools and parents contribute to the problem? Why don't teenagers view plagiarism as cheating?

11. Was Molly justifiably angered by Rabbi Bailor's equivocations and lies? Did he "owe" her the truth, even if that truth jeopardized him and his family? Molly herself equivocates-with Connors, with Rabbi Bailor and others. Is she being hypocritical?

12. What was your impression of Cheryl Wexner? Do you think she was inappropriate in making her son her confidant? At what point did she first suspect that Justin was somehow involved with Greg Shankman's death? Was she in denial?

13. Were you shocked to learn that Justin killed Greg? Do you believe that Justin felt remorse? Do you view Justin as evil or damaged goods?

14. The death of a child can create tremendous stress on a marriage. Discuss the relationship between the McIntyre's. Do you see a possibility of their remarrying?

15. I had originally intended to have Molly rescue Hadassah from Justin, but Hadassah ultimately saves herself, transforming herself from "Dinah" to "Yael"? Was this transformation believable?

16. Do you believe that Rabbi Bailor attempted to defend Molly when he was her teacher fourteen years ago?

17. At the end of the novel, Hadassah asks Molly if she thinks Justin loved her. Do you believe he did?

18. Discuss the title, Now You See Me, as it applies to the characters in the novel.

 

Now You See Me, the fourth Molly Blume mystery, will be out in trade paperback original ($13.95) October 25.

Pre-order a copy at Amazon.com or B&N.com, or from an independent bookstore near you.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

In paperback

 







"Molly Blume...is a sleuth worth her salt" - NY Times Book Review

 

All Molly Blume titles available from Audiobookstand.com

Reading guides are available for all four Molly Blume titles.

 

For inquiries contact
Sarina Evan
212-572-8718
Ballantine
Publishing Group