Study Guide – The Talents
I hope this study guide is helpful for teachers, librarians, book clubbers, or anyone else wanting to delve a little deeper into The Talents. If you use this study guide and have feedback, please let me know!
You can also download a word version here: Study Guide Delcroix I
1. What details do you learn about Dancia’s life in the opening chapter? What do these details tell you about Dancia’s character?
2. Dancia vows to find a way to stay under the radar and not make friends at Delcroix. When does she change her plans? Why?
3. How does Dancia change over the course of the novel? How would you describe her development?
4. What kind of person do you think Mr. Judan is? Do you trust him? What clues does the author give that lead you to this conclusion?
5. What kind of person is Jack? Describe the choices he has made in his life. Do you think he made the right choices? Why or why not?
6. Why does Cam feel so much pressure to do what is expected of him at Delcroix Academy? Why do you think he made the choice he did at the end of the novel?
7. Describe an incident or scene in the book that you think provides an insight into or understanding of Dancia, Jack, and Cam (find a separate scene for each character, if possible). How does the author use “show don’t tell” techniques to develop these characters?
8. Do you know anyone like the characters in the book? In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
9. What roles do the minor characters (Esther, Hennie, Trevor, Anna, Allie) play in the development of Dancia’s character?
10. What does Dancia’s selection of clothing on pages 148-149 say about her character’s development?
11. What did Dancia learn about Jack through his interaction with Mr. Judan on pages 140-141? How does the scene reveal something about Jack’s character?
PLOT, SETTING, POINT OF VIEW
12. The book opens with a flashback. Why does the author use this device?
13. Make a list of the major turning points, or “plot points” of the book. How does the author create suspense?
14. The book has two primary settings: Dancia’s house and Delcroix Academy. Describe and contrast the two settings. How does the author use these settings to build the characters and advance the plot?
15. The book opens with a scene in the third person. After that, the book changes to a first person narrative. What are the benefits of third person v. first person narration? What are the drawbacks?
16. What purposes do the gates around Delcroix Academy serve in the story? What do they communicate?
17. Dancia must make a number of choices in the book. Describe her most important decisions. Did she choose correctly? Discuss the end of the book. Did Dancia make the right choice? Why or why not?
18. Grandma tells Dancia that there are times you can only tell the right actions from the wrong actions by the feeling in your heart. Do you agree? How is this an important theme of the book?
19. How is “the ends justify the means” a theme of the book? Provide examples and discuss your reaction. Do you agree with this proposition? Why or why not?
20. Journal Response: The Best of Intentions
- As the book opens, you learn that Dancia has an extraordinary talent, but is terrified to use it because of the consequences it brings. Have you ever intervened in a situation because you wanted to help, only to end up making things worse? Has your effort to do something good or be helpful ever backfired? Describe.
- Do you think Dancia’s decision not to use her talent was a good one? What would you have done? Explain your reasoning.
21. Journal Response: Teams
- Mr. Judan tells Dancia, Esther and Hennie that research shows that the best teams come out of shared experiences. Do you believe this is true? Describe a team you were on and the experience you shared. How did it change your group?
22. Team-building: All Aboard!
- Materials: wooden platform approximately three feet square (may also use carpet square or tape on the floor of similar size. Adjust the size of the square to fit the group.
- Group Goal: To have everyone in the square, with no part of any body touching the ground outside the square for a count of ten.
- After the activity, facilitate a discussion
i. What happened – were they successful?
ii. Discuss roles students played – was there a clear leader? Did everyone participate?
iii. How many ideas did they generate? Did they get frustrated?
iv. In the book, the students have a slightly different goal: to get the medicine home to earth. How did the goal change the outcome of the activity?
v. Consider the question put to the “astronauts” in the book. Could you sacrifice your own life if it would mean thousands of others would live? What if the crew members had refused to make that sacrifice: would the captain have been justified in leaving some astronauts behind to complete his mission – against their will?
vi. Consider the story of United Flight 93, September 11, 2001. Study the events of that day and discuss the decision the passengers made. What would you have done?
23. Debate: “The Ends Justifies the Means.”
- “The ends justifies the means” is a phrase used to describe a situation in which a particular outcome is said to justify otherwise immoral or unethical behavior. For example, Robin Hood stole from the rich to help the poor. Stealing might be wrong, but many believe his act was justified by the outcome (helping those in need). Another example might be lying. We are taught that honesty is better than lying, yet we often lie to protect other peoples’ feelings.
- Imagine you are traveling and a thief steals your passport. You see him running away through a crowd. Next to you is a motorcycle with a key in the ignition. Should you take the motorcycle to catch the thief? Would your answer be different if the thief stole thousands of dollars? What if he kidnapped a child?
- On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. An estimated 90,000 – 166,000 people were killed by the acute effects of the bomb. Japan surrendered unconditionally to the United States on August 15, 1945, thus ending World War II. Debate the decision of the United States to use a nuclear weapon to end WWII. Is the deliberate killing of civilians in war ever warranted?