The author has been criticized for not writing a fantasy, dystopian novel about young people. Instead she writes about kids who think, observe, and go about the challenges of their everyday lives despite what adults do and say. What are the risks in this approach? What are the benefits?
It’s often said that girls are been raised to be non-confrontational, compliant, and pleasing to others. How would you rate Hummingbird’s level of compliance? In which ways does she veer from this norm? In which ways does she embody these traits?
Discuss the ways in which Hummingbird’s difficulties with the law influence the forward motion of the novel.
How are Hummingbird’s first reactions to seeing Sukie on the locked Alzheimer’s unit similar to her first encounter with Jake at his house?
The theme of alien places thread throughout the story, starting with Hummingbird’s bus ride through Bellesport, Maine, a place she hardly knows, to the strangeness of her grandmother’s locked Alzheimer’s unit, to the strictly adult zone of her father’s ostentatious house. What do these settings tell us about Hummingbird’s view of her life?
Who among the Windsor family is Hummingbird most like? Describe the impact this person has on Hummingbird and the ways in which she conducts herself. Who is she least like? If Hummingbird were given traits similar to the character you’ve chosen, how would the novel change?
Solange and Hummingbird influence one another in unexpected ways. Discuss both the positive and potentially cumbersome outcomes of their relationship.
Elliot is as damaged a character as Hummingbird, albeit in different ways. He appeals so readily to Hummingbird that she sees the red flags her therapist warned her about. What is dangerous about Hummingbird’s relationship with Elliot? What aspects are helpful? Despite their mutual attraction, they avoid a sexual relationship. Is this consistent with the needs of these characters? Why or why not?
Hummingbird buys striped socks for Sukie and tries to convince unit staff to keep them in a laundry bag on which she’s written “Cynthia’s Socks.” What does this metaphor tell you about Hummingbird?
Early in the novel, Hummingbird is adamant about calling her father, Jake. What happens in Chapter 15 to soften this stance? How does it carry over to Chapter 16? At what point does it shift? Describe the circumstances of this shift. Do you agree or disagree with Hummingbird? Why or why not?
Compare Hummingbird and Jake’s responses to Sukie’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. How would you react if you were Jake? What contributed to his lack of responsiveness? How did this make you feel? How do you think it made Sukie feel?
What does Hummingbird’s quiet roar refer to? Does she impress you as a person who roars? Why or why not?