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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Last Song Discussion Questions



In the tradition of A Walk to Remember, this is a story of a teenage girl and her first encounter with heartbreak and love.
Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.

The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels first love, love between parents and children that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

Discussion Questions:
1. Ronnie is a difficult teenager who is prone to acting out and is alienated from both her parents at the start of the novel. Were you rebellious as a teenager? How was this manifested? On the other side, have you ever had to deal with a rebellious teenager? Did Ronnie’s behavior touch a nerve?
I wasn't so much rebellious as I was bored most of my teenage years. High School was a pain in the ass for me and it helped fuel my boredom because hardly anyone, teacher wise, was willing to help me succeed even with my parent's poking and prodding.  It's amazing how much growing up you will do when being freed from your own "personal hell" looks like a really good thing!
In my opinion my brother as a teen was the male version of Ronnie...So to answer the third question yup I've dealt with a rebellious teen.  It sucked and I'm really glad he grew out of it.

2. What do you think about the very different approaches to parenting taken by Ronnie’s mother and father? Do you think Ronnie’s mother is too intrusive or can you understand her relationship with Ronnie? Do you think Ronnie’s father is too absent, or can you understand why the relationship is the way it is?

I thought that the contrast between the two parenting styles was unique.  I think in the beginning Steve was almost afraid to be a "real" parent because he had been absent from Ronnie and Jonah's life for so long.  While Ronnie's mom was trying a little bit of "tough love" on her because of certain issues that had come up at home.

I think that in regards to Ronnie's mom she was a bit intrusive because techincally Ronnie wasn't considered an adult yet.  I don't know about anyone else but right up until I turned 18 my parent's kept a pretty short leash on me.  Also, you earn respect and Ronnie hadn't really been respecting her mom or her mom's rules so I guess I can see both sides of the "arguement."

I think that Steve started treating Ronnie more like an adult once everyone (mainly Ronnie) got past all the "bad" feelings that she was having about being with her dad for the summer.  I think that the sea turtle nest went a long way in turning Ronnie's attitude around also...she was responsible for something and it made her feel a little more grown up.  I don't think that Steve was absent, I think he viewed Ronnie as an adult and in the end I think he was looking for good memories instead of ugly one's.

3. Early in the novel we learn that Ronnie was a piano prodigy who performed at Carnegie Hall when she was thirteen. However, when we meet Ronnie she hasn’t played in many years and she’s sworn to never play the piano again. Why does Ronnie feel this way? Who do you think Ronnie hurts more by not playing the piano, herself or her father?

The piano was her connection to her father and she felt abandoned by her dad.  It hurts to feel abandoned so why put one's self through all that pain?  In the end I think it ended up hurting both Ronnie and Steve, it was their connection and as the saying goes "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."  Steve had the piano there and because Ronnie didn't want to see it much less hear it he put up a wall around it, making Ronnie happy but taking something that Steve loves away from him.

4. Reflecting back on his life, Steve wonders: “Was it still possible for someone like him to experience the presence of God?” Why does Steve ask himself this? What role do religion and belief play in this novel? How would you characterize Steve’s religious faith?

I don't know how to answer this question because I don't know how I personally feel about the subject matter.  I'm still trying to figure it out for myself.

5. Why does Will fall for Ronnie? Can you understand the attraction from both Ronnie’s and Will’s point of view?

Will falls for Ronnie because Ronnie is the exact opposite of what Will usually falls for in a girl.  She's got a backbone and an "honorary" set of cajones.  I can see this relationship from both sides but I really don't care for the fact that for most of the book the relationship itself is almost a game of "cat and mouse." 

6. What do you make of Blaze? How would you characterize her relationship with Marcus? Have you ever been in a relationship that was not particularly healthy? Did you stay in the relationship? If so, why?

I think Blaze is mostly just a misguided teen who just wants to be loved (who really is but doesn't feel like it).  Her relationship with Marcus can be summed up in one word: TOXIC!  I have been in a similar relationship only I could not leave it entirely because the other party is a family member and as a result it has put a strain on our relationship.

7. Ronnie and Will fall in love very quickly over the course of the summer. Have you ever had a summer romance that became something more than a fling?

No unfortunately I haven't had anything like this happen to me in real life.

8. This novel is, in large part, about loyalty and trust. Which characters exhibit the most trustworthiness and which exhibit the least? How does a betrayal of trust affect various relationships within the novel?

Personally, I think that the most trustworthy person in the book is Jonah.  He's still in the stage where life hasn't "kicked" him quiet as hard as it's "kicked" some of the other characters in the book.  The absolute least trustworthy person in the book is Marcus....In my opinion EVERYTHING about him is TOXIC!

Depending upon the level of the betrayal I think that some of the relationships in the book were positively affected (Ronnie and her dad to name just one).  But there are other's that it pretty much was bad news for the relationship (When Marcus didn't help Blaze when she was on fire). 

9. In the middle of the novel, Will asks Ronnie how far she would go to protect a friend. Why does Will ask Ronnie this? How far would you go to protect a friend?

Will asks Ronnie this question because he knows what Scott did and he's torn on weither he should say something or not. And it doesn't help that Scott pretty much constantly makes him feel guilty about it. I'd like to think that I'd be willing to help my friend's out but I don't know if I could keep an act of arson (accidental or not) a secret.

10. How are Jonah and Ronnie affected by their parents’ divorce? What effect does divorce have on children, in your experience?
I think that in Jonah's case it was more a case of missing his dad.  I think he was still young enough that he didn't really understand what was actually happening to his family.  Ronnie on the other hand turned hostile and had an open "hate" for her dad.  Because she believed that it was entirely his fault that there family fell apart.
I think that if the parents handle the divorce properly the kids will handle the situation better...it still hurts but it hurts less than if the parents are engaged in a "nasty" divorce.  But that's just my opinion.

11. Both Will and Ronnie come from families that have certain expectations of them. How do these familial expectations shape them and in what ways do they reject these expectations?
Ronnie is a piano prodigy. As her way of rebelling against her family she just flat out gives up the piano cold turkey.  It may not have been the best way to reject the expectations of her family but it certainly did work for a considerably long time.
Will on the other hand is different in that ALL of his family have gone to Vanderbilt to school.  Will really doesn't want to go there because he wants to study something completely different....environmental things.  I think it isn't until the very end of the book that Will really rejects his families expectations and ends up going to school in New York.

12. Why does Ronnie get angry at Will toward the end of the novel? Do you think her anger is justified?

Ronnie becomes angry with Will because he's kept it a secret from her that he nows who really set the church on fire.  The church that holds so much meaning to her family (in the past) and a pretty much lifelong happy place for her dad.  I think what really set her off was that he waited until the very end of the summer to say anything and she felt betrayed by someone she thought she could trust.
I can see both sides of the arguement, but I think all the events that had been taking place recently were what really made her anger that much more angry.
13. What do you think of the choices Steve and Kim make as parents? Do you think they were right in keeping certain things secret from their children?
I'm not sure how to answer this question because I'm not a parent.  But I would like to think that if something like this happened to me and my family that we would make the right choice.
14. Ronnie makes an important choice at the end of the novel. Would you have made the same choice if you were in her position?
Ronnie actually makes a couple important decisions and HELL YEAH I would have done the exact same things if I were in her position.

15. In what ways does Ronnie change over the course of the novel? In what ways does she stay the same?
Overall Ronnie is a good kid who is stuck in a rebellious teen's body.  I think that the sea turtles and Will are what set things in motion for her to "mellow out" over the course of the book.  In the beginning she was pretty out there...hurtful and full of teen angst.

1 comment:

The Book Vixen said...

Thanks for participating in the book club and for your help! I enjoyed reading your answers. We have similar thoughts :)