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Discussion Q’s

 

Questions book groups can use to discuss A Shadow in the Dark:

Chapter 1:

  1. Have you ever, like Kirsten, walked into a situation that didn’t feel quite right? If so, how did you handle it? How might you handle it differently?
  2. Kirsten is best friends with two other girls. What do you think might be some of the difficulties of a three-way friendship? Have you ever had a best friend? More than one friend you’ve felt pulled between?
  3. Does the old woman who answers the door to Kirsten seem overly gruff to you? Have you encountered adult strangers that treat kids worse than they’d treat other adults? If so, why do you think they act that way?
  4. Why do you think the old woman steps forward to fill the door frame?
  5. The Bible instructs believers to respect their elders. Young people who read it might also take the advice given in I Timothy 4:12:  “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Can you think of anything Kirsten could have done differently to not draw such a negative response from the old woman?

Chapter 2:

  1. How would you characterize Kirsten and Eric’s relationship? Do you have a brother or sister? If so, how do you get along?
  2. Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where you had no friends?

Chapter 3:

  1. Why do you think Kirsten hides the picture of her father?
  2. What are Kirsten’s problems you see so far?
  3. Do you think “religious people” are different? If so, how?
  4. Whom do you think the old woman was yelling at?

Chapter 4:

  1. Do you think Kirsten and Eric are old enough to watch themselves while their mom is at work?
  2. Whom do you relate to best—Kirsten, Gail, or Eric?
  3. Do you agree with Gail’s statement, “Sports are the most fun when you’re good at them, and the only way you get good at them is to keep trying”?
  4. Have you ever known kids to pick on an elderly person? Someone who’s different?
  5. Do you have any ideas about what Kirsten and Gail could do to find out more about the dark-eyed girl?

Chapter 5:

  1. Do you believe everyone is special to God and He loves us despite our faults?
  2. Why does Kirsten string beads on her bracelet when Olivia asks her to take her place in baseball?
  3. Have you ever had a nickname like “Kirst” that made you feel better about yourself?
  4. Kirsten doesn’t feel as if she ever fits in. How common do you think this is for kids her age? Have you ever felt that way?

Chapter 6:

  1. Why do you think Kirsten doesn’t want to go back to Vacation Bible School?
  2. Do you agree with Gail that prayer is the most powerful force in the world?
  3. What do you think of Gail’s plan to peek in the farmhouse?

Chapter 7:

  1. Gail deceives her grandparents not by lying but by not revealing the whole truth. What do you think about this action? Would you have handled the situation differently from Gail?
  2. Did Kirsten and Gail’s “monstrous encounter” scare you?

Chapter 8:

  1. What do you think about the way Kirsten and Gail joke around with each other?
  2. After Kirsten suggests telling Gail’s grandparents they were having fun and Gail says, “I’m not going to lie,” Kirsten becomes silent. What do you think she’s thinking?

Chapter 9:

  1. Gail says she’ll tell her grandparents the truth “if they ask.” Do you think this is any better or worse than her earlier deception?
  2. Kirsten sees “religious stuff” as potentially dangerous. Have you ever seen it that way or do you know someone who does?
  3. Gail reads a devotion from the ninth chapter of John in the Bible. What do you think of this story about a blind man?
  4. Do you pray? If so, how? (Do you recite a prayer you’ve memorized? List need? Talk to God like a friend? Something else?) How do you view prayer?

Chapter 10:

  1. Do you think Grandma’s threat of grounding Gail is fair? Have you ever been grounded?
  2. If you have a brother or sister who annoys you as Eric does Kirsten, can you remember any “finer moments” they’ve had?

Chapter 11:

  1. What do you think of Kirsten’s dad?
  2. Do you think his not showing up is worse for Kirsten with Gail there or better because Gail is there?
  3. What do you think of Kirsten’s mom?
  4. The book says Gail’s silence comforted Kirsten and “the understanding look in her eyes spoke what Kirsten most needed to hear.” What do you think Kirsten needed to hear?
  5. What do you make of Mom’s telephone conversation with Dad the next morning and of how she describes it to Kirsten?

Chapter 12:

  1. After Martha sprains her ankle, why do you think she calls Gail’s grandma instead of someone else?
  2. Why do you think Martha never looks up from eating when noises come from the other room?
  3. If you were Kirsten, would you agree to go to the old woman’s house when Gail asked? Why or why not?
  4. Do you understand why Kirsten is hesitant to call the police? Do you think you would call?

Chapter 13:

  1. What do you think of Kirsten’s friendship with Danette and Madison?
  2. Do you think the old woman is holding someone captive? Who do you think the dark-eyed girl is?

Chapter 14:

  1. What do you think of Dad now? Do you think Eric is right about him?
  2. How did you feel when Kirsten went to open the pantry door?

Chapter 15:

  1. Do you agree that sometimes telling the truth is a dare?
  2. What do you think of the way Gail talked to Officer Piney? Why do you think he smiles while speaking of the old woman as a possible kidnapper? In the end, do you think he handled the situation fairly?
  3. What would you expect God to do?

Chapter 16:

  1. How do you think Gail feels about seeing Jack Blitz? How about the other girls? How would you act toward him around new friends?
  2. Who do you think makes a better friend—Gail or Danette or Madison?

Chapter 17:

  1. Do you like Gail’s grandparents?
  2. Have you ever driven a dirt bike, four-wheeler, snowmobile, or other small-engine vehicle? If so, how did it make you feel? Can you relate to Kirsten’s initial fear and later confidence?

Chapter 18:

  1. Do you agree with Kirsten that kids don’t always have a lot of choices and sometimes have to live with their parents’ “lousy choices”?
  2. What did you think of Gail’s explanation of how a geode would always remind her of Kirsten?
  3. Gail’s grandmother stops at Martha’s to see what’s going on with the ambulance in the driveway. Do you think you or your neighbors might do this?
  4. How did the hospital scene make you feel?

Chapter 19:

  1. Is it understandable why Kirsten decides to not go to the scrapbook convention?
  2. What would you do after hearing the thump?

Chapter 20:

  1. Were you surprised about what was behind the door?
  2. Do you believe God purposely creates people with disabilities? What do you think the ninth chapter of John says about this? Would you explain things any differently to Mr. Magnorffson than the way Gail and Kirsten did?
  3. What do you think of Mr. Magnorffson’s comment, “You can read whatever you want into the Bible?”

Chapter 21:

  1. Were you aware of the hiding practice Mrs. Thompson spoke about? What do you think about it?
  2. What do you think upsets Kirsten so much in her phone conversation with Danette and Madison?
  3. Kirsten has trouble seeing any purpose God has for her. Do you believe God has a purpose for every person? For you?
  4. Kirsten says, “I used to think I just wanted a dad who made child support payments. But God is that and more.” Do you think God made or makes child support payments? If so, how?

 

Questions book groups can use to discuss Living It Up to Live It Down:

Chapter 1:

  1. Why do you think Kirsten is friends with Danette and Madison? Have you ever had a friendship like theirs?
  2. What do you think of the way Kirsten prays to God?
  3. Do you have fights in your school? If so, how do other students react?
  4. Kirsten dislikes being short. Do you have a physical trait you dislike? If so, how do you deal with it?
  5. Why do you think Kirsten stopped bringing the cross necklace out of her back pocket? Why might Sarah put it in her backpack instead of putting it back on?

Chapter 2:

  1. Have you ever been in a situation like Kirsten’s where you’re trying not to laugh but can’t hold it in?
  2. What did you think of Sarah’s action of placing Cal’s drawing on Mr. Noring’s desk?
  3. What are some ways Sarah is dishonest in this chapter?

Chapter 3:

  1. Do you think Sarah is the answer to Kirsten’s prayers for a Christian friend? Why or why not?
  2. Is being friends with a ninth grader too much for a seventh grader to ask?
  3. How would you handle the “Hand me a flashlight” conversation?
  4. What’s your favorite season? Does your choice reflect your personality?
  5. Are you or your friends different people outside school from who you are inside it?
  6. What do you think Sarah means by the statement, “I don’t think I need reminders anymore”?

Chapter 4:

  1. Who is your favorite character:  Kirsten, Sarah, Cal, Parker, Mr. Noring, or someone else? Whom do you relate to most?
  2. What do you think of Kirsten’s response to Liz’s statement, “That seat is saved”?
  3. Do you see the popular group in your school as all liking one another and getting along?
  4. What do you think is a good age to start dating?
  5. Do you think things would be better if everyone chose their faith later in life after having some fun?
  6. Why do you think some people believe in God or practice a faith while others don’t?

Chapter 5:

  1. Reading the text at the bottom of page 51 (“‘They’re talking about us,’ Kirsten said, feeling flashes of hot and cold as anger and fright battled within”), what do you think Kirsten fears?
  2. Does a “fun” friend (page 52) make the best friend? Any other qualities a best friend should have?
  3. Kirsten overeats and prays when she’s down. What do you do?

Chapter 6:

  1. How do you think Jesus would handle people like Liz who “run over” quiet people?
  2. Do you think the joke on Cal is being carried too far? Is Kirsten becoming increasingly dishonest by playing along with it?
  3. If you have a group of friends, where do you stand in it–in the middle or on the fringe? Would you rather stand elsewhere?
  4. About what percentage of kids in your school do you think cheat?
  5. Have you heard the saying, “The preachers’ kids are the worst”? Does it seem true? If so, why do you think a preacher’s kid would behave worse than other kids?

Chapter 7:

  1. Were you surprised by Sarah’s math skills? Does her explanation of why she uses them the way she does make sense? Do you agree more with her or Kirsten in their argument?
  2. Have you been to any sleepovers? If so, what kinds of things do you do at them?
  3. Do you think dancing can lead to trouble?
  4. How do you think Kirsten feels about being asked to promise she’ll try to help Sarah get to the dance?

Chapter 8:

  1. Whose church background do you understand better, Kirsten’s or Sarah’s?
  2. How do you think Kirsten feels in her friendship with Sarah and the other girls? Have you ever felt that way in a friendship? Does having her friends in her home and around her family make Kirsten feel more or less at ease in the friendships?
  3. Kirsten never had much in common with her old friends Danette and Madison. What does she have in common with Sarah and Topsy?

Chapter 9:

  1. Do you agree that people sometimes like to believe the worst about other people because it makes them feel better about themselves?
  2. Jasmine is concerned about Brandi “holding her back” socially. Do kids in your school rank each other socially? Have you ever worried about being seen with the “wrong” crowd or person?
  3. Sarah lies to Liz and her other friends. Why do you think she does this? When Topsy questions Kirsten about Ryan and his friends, how does Kirsten respond?
  4. What do you think of Mr. Noring?
  5. What do you make of Cal’s flirtatious behavior toward Kirsten?
  6. What feeling do you get about Sarah’s plans for the dance?

Chapter 10:

  1. Did Sarah’s explanations for rushing Kirsten in the house and for not wearing a dress make sense to you? What about the other things she says and does around Kirsten?
  2. Kirsten is puzzled about her feelings toward Cal. What do you think of him? Is he boyfriend material? What about Ryan?

Chapter 11:

  1. Did anything about Cal in this chapter surprise you?
  2. Do you think girls and guys can just be friends?
  3. What did you think of Kirsten’s words to Liz? to her mom?
  4. How long do you think Sarah held the plans involving Kirsten–a few days? months? since the beginning of their friendship?
  5. Do you think Kirsten is justified in ending the friendship?

Chapter 12:

  1. Kirsten wants to hide. Have you ever felt that way at your school? Why do you suppose she feels lonelier with the two girls from her class than she does alone?
  2. Do you think most people want to live their lives right but have fun at the same time? Can you think of a time when you had to choose between the two?
  3. As a Christian, Kirsten sees faith in God as being about second chances. Do you see it the same way?
  4. What are some of the consequences Sarah is experiencing now for her earlier actions?

Chapter 13:

  1. Kirsten skirts the truth in her explanations to Sarah of why she’s chosen certain walls and stalls to paint. Do you think it’s okay to not tell the truth to avoid hurting someone?
  2. What does being popular mean in your school–being well-liked? well-known? something else?
  3. What do you think about what Sarah says about the emotional effects of her relations with guys (p. 137)? About the price of having fun?
  4. Kirsten sees how God answered her prayers for a believing friend with Sarah. Do you think her faith was strengthened more this way than if He’d sent a friend stronger in the faith?
  5. How does the Bible verse Sarah recites relate to her own experience?

Chapter 14:

  1. What do you think about the Christian beliefs regarding sin, forgiveness, and consequences?
  2. What influence does Christianity have on the lives of the teens in Living It Up to Live It Down? What are some of its influences in our society? In your school? In your life?
  3. Did the final scene change your impression of Mr. Noring?
  4. Did the ending of the book seem appropriate to you?
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