Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey.
But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own lifeand, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.
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- A major theme of this book is Lennie's discovery of her sexuality. Do you think this is depicted realistically? Do you think this is tied to her grief or do you think the two are unrelated?
- Throughout the novel, Lennie writes on anything and everything and leaves these poems scattered around the town. Do you think this is an effective way of showing the reader Lennie and Bailey's relationship? How do these poems ultimately bring Joe and Lennie together? What is the significance of Lennie's scattering these poems?
- Writing can be a form of therapy for some people. Do you think these poems are Lennie's way of finding an outlet for her grief? If so, what makes you think it works? Doesn't work?
- When Sarah hears about Lennie and Toby's relationship, she's upset by their actions. Do you agree with Sarah's reaction or should she have reacted differently, knowing Lennie and Toby's situation? What is your opinion on Lennie and Toby's relationship? Do you find it forgivable or heartless?
- During one of her encounters with Toby, Lennie realizes, "I'm sure a shrink would love this, all of it." (pgs. 146– 147) What does she mean by that? Do you agree with this assessment? Discuss whether you believe Lennie's actions in wearing Bailey's clothes and hooking up with her boyfriend are an act to keep Bailey close or to gain the life her sister had.
- Lennie and Bailey were extremely close sisters. Do you really believe no competition existed between them? Why or why not?
- Bailey and Lennie's absent mother is a large part of their lives. Ultimately the mystery leads Bailey to search for her. Why do you think she leaves Lennie in the dark about this? Who do you think is a stand-in for Lennie's real mother Bailey or Gram? Why do you think Lennie decides not to continue with the search? Do you think she'll be content?
- Lennie's actions hurt Joe very deeply, on account of his relationship history. Do you think his reaction is extreme or understandable? Why do you think he forgives Lennie in the end?
- Consider the role music plays in the novel. How is this a crucial part of the story? Why does Lennie purposely throw the audition for first chair? How does music help her to heal? Is it just the music that draws Joe to Lennie or something more? How does it shape her relationship with Joe?
- The novel is saturated with grief. Each person touched by Bailey in the novelGram, Big, Lennie, Toby, and Sarah grieve in distinctly personal ways. Define their grief and how each character learns to move on, if at all. Do you wish any of the characters had worked through his or her grief in a different way? How would you have acted in their situation?
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