Susannah Greenwood feels conflicting emotions.
At age fifteen, Susannah Greenwood arrives for her first semester at a Quaker prep school and says at the end of the prologue that she is “both happy and unhappy to be there.” Why do you think she is both happy and unhappy? Discuss how – and under what circumstances – it is possible to feel two opposing emotions at the same time.
One of the book’s themes examines the role of authority.
Throughout the book, Greenwood questions, and even flaunts, authority. What do you think the connection is between her unwillingness to obey authority and her experiences with her own mother at home? Discuss how and why some people seem to need a strong authority telling them exactly where the boundaries are, while others demand freedom to decide for themselves what course to follow? What are some examples of this in the book and beyond?
Feeling accepted plays a major role in this story.
Greenwood’s need to feel accepted at her new prep school leads her into direct conflict with the school’s rules and the strict dean of girls and, at the same time, puts her at risk of severe punishments, even expulsion. Was she justified in choosing acceptance over compliance? What do you see in adults where the same struggle may be played out?
It’s often difficult to know the right thing to do under pressure.
Greenwood’s conflict between loyalty and responsibility leads to stark consequences. Do you think she did the right thing by not divulging where Moll went? Who was at fault when Moll disappeared? Do you think Greenwood should have been more attentive to what was going on around her the night of the dance?
Secrets can be dangerous.
Moll insists that Greenwood keep her secret. How do secrets lead to dire consequences? What other kinds of secrets do you find people keeping and what are the consequences for them and others? Should Greenwood have helped Moll stay away from the school? What would you have done?
Is religion the same as faith?
One of the themes underlying the story is faith as practiced by Quakers. Discuss the roles of organized religion vs. individual faith vs. moral conviction. When do they diverge and how are they different or the same?