Friday, October 2, 2015

Pizza and Pages: Ripper by Stefan Petrucha and Some Growing Pains

As with most established, long-running programs, I found that my middle school book club was experiencing some growing pains. Most of the regular attendees were beginning to age out (the original grade range for the group was 6 to 9) but they still love coming and were just a really great group in general. Plus, the titles I was choosing starting becoming too "baby-ish" as their reading tastes diverged and it was hard to find something they would all like. They wanted to grittier, meatier reads that I just didn't feel comfortable giving to 11 year-old sixth graders.

So I decide to alter my book group and bit and turn it into a Teen Book Club for grades 7 to 12. The teens were really on board with this change and are excited to delve into some older teen books.

So to kick off our first new book club meeting of the school year, I decided to choose a fun, historical thriller and Ripper seemed to fit the bill.

Type of Book: Historical/Mystery/Thriller

Plot Summary: From Goodreads: "Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies."

Average Teen Rating: 7.3
The teens really enjoyed this one.

Discussion Questions
  1. What makes a criminal? Do you think it’s nature? Nurture/environment? What makes people do awful things?
  2. If someone breaks a subjectively unfair law, are they a criminal?
  3. How do you think the story would be different/similar if it had taken place today with a modern day serial killer? Does the year it takes place make the story better?
  4. On page 109, Hawking quotes William Blake who said, “A truth that’s told with bad intents beats all the lies you can invent.” What do you think Blake means by this? Do you agree?
    1. Some lies can be helpful, kind, or white lies. However, truths with bad intents are hypocritical; Blake believes that using truth for the purpose of evil outdoes the evil of a lie.
    2. An example of an evil truth is if you tell someone they will never win a gold medal, or that they have low grades, are obese, etc.

  1. What invention from the Pinkertons would you be the most interested in?
  2. If the New Pinkertons existed today, what kind of cool contraptions would you like to see exist?
  3. Did you guess that Jack the Ripper was Carver’s father? Would it have been better to not include the murder in the first chapter or no?
  4. What would you do if you found out one of your parents was a criminal?
  5. Did you guess that Hawking was the Ripper? Is he the original or a copycat? What clues gave it away?
  6. What do you think happened to Hawking? How did he escape?
  7. Do you think Carver’s mother is alive?
  8. Were you surprised to learn about which historical details from the book were real and made up? What surprised you the most? Least?
  9. Have you read any Sherlock Holmes, Nick Neverseen, etc. type books? How does this one compare?
  10. What do you think happens to Carver and Hawking after the story ends?

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