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"I got "Returnable Girl" for my daughter, Amanada (Mandy), and she liked it so much that I ended up reading it too. What I liked most about it was its appeal to all ages. The details were clear and crisp and easy to remember, so we've been able to discuss it at different times and now it has become something "special" we both share together. This is wonderful, especially since it's hard enough to get a 14-year old to talk to a parent in the first place. Keep them coming..."
1. Ronnie is a foster girl who is willing to do almost whatever it takes to be popular.
GIRLS: What does it mean to be popular in your school? How are popular kids different from everybody else? How are they the same? Do the popular kids ever exclude those less popular? How do they do that? Why do you think they act that way? What are the advantages/disadvantages of not being a part of the popular crowd?
Middle school is a time where it can sometimes be especially hard to feel like you fit in and belong. Thankfully, by the time they get to high school most girls feel more comfortable in developing their unique identities instead of conforming to the status quo.
MOMS: When you were growing up was their a “Cat” in your school? What was she like? Can you tell about a moment in your life when you felt excluded or like you didn’t fit in?
Role play a situation where you might help a girl who doesn’t fit in.
2. The roles of bully or aggressor, victim and bystander are portrayed by the characters in Returnable Girl. Find a definition and/or discuss what you think each of these terms means. Which of these roles best fit Ronnie? How does her role change depending on who she’s with? Why do you think that happens?
GIRLS OR MOMS: Have you ever found yourself acting differently around different people? What are the different roles you have in your life? Which role do you identify with the most?
3. Cat is a character who uses her sexuality to attract boys.
GIRLS: Do you know girls at school who do that? What names are they called? What do you think about Cat’s relationship with Tyler? How do you define “cheating” in your school? How can you help each other cope if somebody “cheats” on you?
4. Alison keeps Ronnie’s mother’s letter from her because she said she wanted to protect her, yet it destroyed the trust Ronnie had for her. Sometimes parents make hard decisions when it comes to protecting their teens.
MOMS: Have you ever had to prevent your daughter from doing something you knew might hurt her but she got mad at you anyway? What might you do differently today had you had the chance?
GIRLS: What are things that you used to enjoy doing with your mother, but don’t anymore? What do you still enjoy doing with your mother and wish you did more of?
5. Kids don’t often use extreme violence to hurt one another, but when it does happen, it’s scary and tragic. Were you surprised that Cat had put the bullet in the gun? Does it seem realistic that she might try to shoot Paige?
GIRLS: What can you do to help prevent violence in your school?
MOMS: Does your school have an anti-bullying program? If not, how can you start one?
6. Ronnie says if she could, she would have “told someone sooner about everything.” When do you think she should have told? Do you think it would have made a difference? How?
GIRLS: Role play how you might tell your mom about a friend in trouble and brainstorm together what to do about it.
Parents have a hard time telling other parents if they find out something bad about their teen. Their daughters fear that there could be social repercussions for telling.
MOMS: Role play a conversation when you have to tell another mom that their child was in trouble. Remember to stress with the parent NOT TO TELL their child where they got the information. (Note: see Awkward Conversations article on my website for help http://pamelalowell.com.)
7. Describe the relationship between Ronnie and her biological mother. How does it change throughout the story? Do you think Ronnie truly forgave her mother in the end? Would you? What do you think it meant when Ronnie tore up her mother’s picture and said she wasn’t going to need it anymore?
8. Have you ever known anyone who was adopted or in foster care? Did this book give you a better understanding of some of the things they may go through? What do you think would be the hardest thing about being adopted or in foster care?
9. When Ronnie gets to Alaska, she rubs the nose of the sled-dog, realizing that dogs have “the ability to pull from darkness into the light.” Who or what do you think she’s really talking about here? In this story how are Francis and Lucky and God alike? How are they different?
GIRLS: What do you do, or who helps you when you’re having a problem and need to take care of yourself?
MOMS: How are you modeling taking care of yourself for your daughters?