To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:
―The number four
―The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
―A crisp white pad of paper
―Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?
But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly's world from spinning out of control. In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.
Post-reading Discussion Questions
1. Hannah says, "Didn't you ever do something wrong so you could do something right?" Locate examples from the book when characters do something wrong so they can ultimately do something right? Explain why you think their behaviors are justified or not.
2. What do you think would and would not have been different for Molly if her mother had not taken the job in Toronto? Explain your thoughts.
3. How do the various characters in the book cope with challenges? In what ways do Molly, Ian, Kate, Hannah, and Mom cope with the various challenges that present themselves? Do you think those coping mechanisms are effective and/or positive over time? Use the chart below to record your thoughts.
4. What prevents various characters in the book from saying what they want to say? Consider: fear of the truth, fear of being stigmatized, fear of disappointing others, fear of discomfort, fear of conflict.
5. Why do you think Molly was not able share her secret with anyone but was able to participate and perform openly in the poetry slam contest? Why do you think she was ultimately able to reveal her secret to Ian?
6a. Review the narrative technique used by the author on pages 73, 122, 127, 170, 194. What does the use of that technique reveal about Molly’s changing character?
6b. Between page 132 and 219, how does Molly’s counting affect you as a reader and what does it reveal about Molly’s changing character?
7. Compare the poems in Chapter 29 and Chapter 51. What do you notice about these two poems? Why do you think the author chose to do this?
8. What is empathy and what role does it play in the story? In what way or ways do the following characters display this emotion in the story? Find textual evidence to support your findings. Use the chart below to record your thoughts.
9. Explain why the casual use of a phrase like, “I am so OCD,” is both incorrect and insensitive. By the end of the story, how do you think Molly would react to the uninformed use of this phrase?
10. Go back into the book and find at least three moments that take place in Mom’s closet. Identify what characters were present, explain the reason they were in the closet, and discuss the significance of the moment. What do those moments have in common?