1. What do you think makes the first-person narration in the novel ring so true as an eleven-year-old’s voice? When does Jonny display knowledge beyond his years and when does he reveal his inexperience and naïveté?
2. How does Jonny regard his pre-music-career life in St. Louis? Is he nostalgic, or conflicted? Does this change after his tour stop in St. Louis?
3. Why does Jane offer Jonny the choice between continuing to tour and going to school? Do you think he’s equipped to choose well? How do you feel about Jonny’s decision, in the end?
4. How do marketing and promotional concerns circumscribe Jonny’s life? How do you think his life would have been different if Jane had not chosen to be his manager? Do you think he would have more freedom to be a kid, or not?
5. Though they are employees, Walter and Nadine both care for Jonny and he cares for them. Why are these relationships so important to him? Why do you think Jonny has an easier time relating to adults than to his peers?
6. What attracts Jonny to the Latchkeys, especially to the lead singer, Zack? In your opinion, were they using him, as Jonny comes to suspect, or was Zack’s big-brotherly interest in him genuine?
7. Jane tells Jonny, “The top person is never simply the most talented, or the smartest, or the best-looking. They sacrifice anything in their lives that might hold them back.” (p 37) Do you agree? After his appearance with Tyler Beats, how does Jonny’s perception of his own talent and work ethic change? Do you think this is a healthy change, or not? Would Jonny have been able to see himself this way at the beginning of the book?
8. How would you characterize Jonny’s feelings about his fans and celebrity? At one point he says, “A celeb is only a celeb if you remember them. It’s like we disappear if no one is paying attention.” (p 96) Do you think he’d prefer to disappear? Or to be loved unconditionally by his fans? If you could choose, would you want to have Jonny’s level of fame?
9. Towards the end of his tour, before his Detroit concert, Jonny thinks: “So screw them. If this is what they were giving me, I wasn’t just going to do a bad job. I was going to make it my worst show ever.” (p 236) What is making him feel this way? Does he deserve to be so angry? Why is he unable to follow through on his intention to deliver a poor show?
10. How does the author use the video game Zenon as a metaphor throughout the book? Does Jonny gain something valuable from the game or does the fictional world of Zenon obstruct his understanding of the real world?
11. Over the course of the book we learn that Jane has concealed from Jonny information both personal and music-related. In your opinion, are her decisions motivated more by protecting Jonny or herself, or by keeping him career-focused? Is she really the bad mother the press claims she is?
12. By the time Jonny finally gets a chance to meet his father, he has built up a number of expectations throughout the course of their correspondence. Discuss how this plays out, and what the result of this meeting means for both Jonny and the novel.
13. Throughout the book, Nadine and Jonny are studying slavery in their history lessons; Jonny’s final essay question is “What does it mean to be the property of another person and what does it mean to be free?” (p 223) Talk about how this theme ties into the book’s larger message. When Jonny claims at the end that he knows how to answer the essay question, do you think he’s right? What does his answer tell you about the journey he’s taken in the course of the book?
14. After reading this novel did your feelings about celebrity culture or the music industry change? Do you think one can have both celebrity and normalcy, or are they mutually exclusive?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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