What was your initial reaction to Special Risk? Did it hook you immediately or take some time to get into?
The story is initially told from Valerie’s and Reuben’s viewpoints, flipping back and forth between chapters, but the timelines are different. How did the structure of the book affect the story? Were there any elements of the story structure (such as the point of view or the timeline) that you enjoyed or found distracting?
What was your favorite moment in Special Risk? What was your favorite quote/passage?
What surprised you the most?
How did the setting (Philadelphia in 2009) impact the story? Was the setting unique or important? Could the story have taken place anywhere, at any time? What parts of the setting did you enjoy or find distracting?
Were the technical elements of the story in the world of guitars and musicians easy to understand?
Did the characters seem authentic and believable? What did you think of Valerie and Rocky’s relationship? In addition to Valerie and Rocky, think about Harry, Reuben, Professor Eastlake, Liam (Valerie’s father), Walter, Bic, Uncle Min, Akio, Mr. Itoh, and Suzume. Which characters experienced growth and change over the course of the story, and which remained static?
In what ways were you able to identify with the characters? If you were a character in the book, with whom would you most relate and why?
If Valerie’s mother had not died, how would Valerie’s life have been different? How do you think Liam’s life would have changed? And Min’s life?
Why do you think Valerie’s mother wanted Valerie to “be American?” How do you think Liam felt about his daughter’s interpretation of her mother’s wishes? Do you think Min would have agreed?
How did you feel about the ending of Special Risk? Did you find the ending to be satisfying and meet your expectations of the plot and/or the genre? Why or why not? Were there any plot points that were not resolved to your satisfaction? Did you want to (or need to) go back and reread certain passages in order to clarify a character’s motivation or have the ending make sense?