Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

Pretty Amy now has Discussion Questions

on November 26, 2012

I love to talk about books, think about books, consider why certain characters or the author chose the things they chose for the book I am reading. I know a lot of people feel the same way, but sometimes it’s hard to get a discussion going, with that in mind I am so happy to announce that Pretty Amy now has approved discussion questions for schools, libraries and book clubs to use.


These questions written by youth librarian Nancy Cantor and used during one of her book clubs will help readers delve deeper into the motivations and choices of AMY and the other characters in a book where motivation and choice is a central theme.

Please see them below, they will also be available on my website going forward.

Thank you Nancy!!! 🙂

Pretty Amy Discussion Questions

  1. The novel begins with these lines:  “I am one of legions of middle-class white girls who search malls for jeans that make them look thinner, who search drugstores for makeup to wear as a second skin, who are as sexy and exotic as blueberry muffins.“  How is Amy just like other middle-class white girls?  How is she different?
  2. Amy describes her mother as a “self-help-book junkie.”  She bites her fingernails incessantly.  What do her mother’s behaviors say about her?  What are her motivations?  What kind of role model is she?
  3. Amy says of her high school, “The hallways at school could dissolve you into a nameless, faceless drone.  Unless you made yourself different.”  How true is this for high school girls?
  4. Amy’s parents expected her to go to college, “orchestrated” it since the day she was born.  She wants to prolong it because she says, “hard work and a college degree no longer meant anything other than moving right back in with the parents.”  Is this a true statement for many high school students today?  How important is college in today’s world?
  5. At her first therapy session with Daniel, he asks Amy to tell him “what makes her matter.”  She says she has been searching for that all through high school.  P. 61—who are you?  Is this a theme many high school girls can relate to?  Why or why not?
  6. Amy describes her girlhood heroines from books: Ramona, Nancy Drew, etc.  She then says that “as I got older, I had to live in images.  Started living with an outlined face and body layered upon me by a huge overhead projector lit by the sun.  Reminding me and everyone else of what I was not.”  How does popular culture affect teen girls?
  7. Another theme of the novel is body image.  Amy struggles with hers, saying she feels fat etc.  p. 119—describing the waitress outside the restaurant as “being a girl, she had to make sure that she was the best-looking one in a ten-foot radius and if she wasn’t, she  needed to prepare herself for it. “  She describes Annie from Lollipop World as someone who wears cargo shorts and doesn’t care that they make her look fat.  Do these images ring true for females of all ages?
  8. In Daniel’s office, he asks her to think about her feelings.  Why is Amy unable to do that for most of the novel?
  9. Joe was the boy next door, and a real friend until she started hanging out with Lila and Cassie.  Why did she choose the girls over Joe?

10. Later in the novel, Amy describes her mother as an “image Jew, a person who only cares as much about her Judaism as the person she is trying to prove it to.”  Is this typical of many Jews or other religious groups?  How important is religion to today’s teens and families?

11. Other than the comic relief of Amy’s gastric upset, what significance does the prayer meeting have?

12. What do you think of Amy’s parents’ decision to go to graduation without her?

13. When Amy realizes that Aaron used her, it becomes the impetus for her to begin thinking of giving in.  When did you suspect that Aaron was not sincere?

14. Ruthie the town gossip, comes into Gas and Go to spread rumors about Lila and Cassie, including that Cassie is pregnant.  We find out at the end that it isn’t true.  How can gossip ruin lives?

15. Even after Amy visits the jail and is scared out of her wits, she still cannot give in to her parents’ and lawyer’s demands to give up the others.  Why is it so hard for her?

16. P.307—Amy says she had “always been locked away; a confinement of caring so very much about what other people thought of me, the bars around me made up of my own perceived inadequacies.”  Were her inadequacies real?

17. At the end, Amy gets back together with Joe.  Is this realistic?

18. Amy says that without Lila, she and Cassie were like a two-sided triangle, “our lines continuing on and on with nothing to connect them.”  Do you think Amy and Cassie have any hope of continuing their friendship?

19. What do you think has happened to Lila?

20. How can parents and popular culture prevent teens from becoming like Amy?

21. On the topic of censorship: After the book’s release, author Lisa Burstein tweeted that a national teen magazine had decided not to publish a review of  Pretty Amy because it had teens using drugs in it.   Should Pretty Amy be read by teens?  Why or why not?  Compare and contrast it with other popular teen books such as the Twilight series, 50 Shades of Grey, or books by Sara Dessen or John Green.

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Read the first chapter here

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