Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


by Laurie Faria Stolarz

About the book:
Over the course of a single day, the lives of ten teenagers will intersect in powerful and unexpected ways. Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her bet friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she’s been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won’t help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen-year-old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate. Seamlessly woven together, this collection of interconnected short stories paints an authentic portrait of today’s teen experience that is at once funny, moving and haunting.

About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions and projects intended to extend the use of the novel into classrooms, book clubs, and literature circles. It should promote discussion on the themes of the novel including friendship, family life, teen sexuality, betrayal, violence and abuse.

About the author:
Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of the hugely popular young adult novels Blue Is for Nightmares, White Is for Magic, Silver Is for Secrets, and Red Is for Rememberance. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Stolarz attended Merrimack College and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently working on a companion novel to Bleed.

Do you think teens spend more time thinking about friendship or romance? Why? Which is more important in the long term? How often do teens betray one another? Do you think this is more often or less than adult relationships?

Discussion Guide:

Nicole Bouchard
  1. Why do you think Nicole lets things unfold the way the do with Sean? At how many different points could she have stopped the events? How much of the blame does Sean carry? Do girls carry more of the blame in these situations? Why or why not?

  1. What do you think will happen when Kelly comes home from California? Will they admit what happened to her? If so, how will she react? Does Sean and Nicole’s relationship have a chance at survival if they do give it a go? Why or why not?

  1. In ten years do you think Nicole will regret the way she lost her virginity or not? Can there be a good first experience?  Do you think men or women are more likely to have a bad first experience? Why?

Maria Krito

  1. Why do you think Maria keeps a memento from each friend who cuts her? Are these people her true friends or not? What does she come to realize about her friends?
  2. What transaction takes place between Maria and her “Uncle Luke?” Do you think this is a common event? What makes you think so or not? Is Maria wrong to submit? Why?
  3. What is Maria’s relationship with Sadie? Who do you think has the worse homelife- Sadie or Maria? Why?

Kelly Pickerel
  1. Why do you think Kelly gets involved with Robbie Mardonia? What does she convince herself about him? Why does she keep this relationship a secret? Do you think two people can actually fall in love with just letters (or email)?
  2. Convicted murderers (and death row inmates) often receive lots of fan mail from women. Why do you think this is so? What does it say about our society? Or does it only speak of the women who write?
  3. Describe Robbie and Kelly’s first meeting. Why is it not what she expected? Is it what Robbie hopes? Why or why not?

Derik LaPointe

  1. Describe the encounter between Derik and Mearl. How is it different for him than his usual interactions with girls?
  2. In the end, who do you think is most affected by their meeting? Will it change Derik in any fundamental way or not? What has he learned about himself, if anything? What did Mearl learn?
  3. How is Derik’s description of their meeting different from Mearls? What does that tell us about each of them?

Sadie Dubinski

  1. What is Sadie’s obsession? How do you think she got this way? What is like to be Sadie? How do you think she is treated at school?
  2. Do you think Sadie will always have a problem with food? What seems to be the only quality that Sadie’s mother admires in her daughters? Do you think this is common in our society? Why?
  3. Should a mother ever discuss weight issues with her son her daughter? How could it be done in a truly supportive manner?

Robbie Mardonia

  1. Joy says in Robbie’s story, “I thought there was more to the relationship than there really was. It’s weird how we do that, you know, just fill in the blanks with our own answer key.” (p.134) Do you think this is a common mistake in teen relationships? Why or why not?
  2. What do Robbie and Joy see in the woods? Why is it there? Why do people create these? Do you believe Robbie’s story? Can murder ever be accidental?
  3. Predict what you think Robbie will become in the next five years? Do you think he will try to find Kelly?

Mearl Aremian

  1. What is Mearl searching for? How does she try to find it? Do you think most of her behavior is just a well scripted act or does she believe herself too?
  2. What is Mearl’s backstory? How do you think this has affected her current situation? Do you believe in palm and aura reading? Why or why not?
  3. How do Maria and Mearl meet? Do you think they can become true friends? Why or why not?

Ginger Dubinsky

  1. Ginger believes the rumor about Kelly and Mr. Vargas. Do you? Are there rumors about teachers and their students on every campus? What percentage of these stories do you think have any merit?
  2. Why does Ginger want to bring Kelly down? How does she orchestrate her plan? Do you think she is obsessed with Kelly? Would you want revenge too?
  3. Does Sean’s guilt help Ginger uncover the truth? How? Can some people cheat and lie without any conscience? How do you know if your boyfriend or girlfriend is capable of it?

Joy Ryder

  1. How does Danny Winslow treat Joy at school? How common is this type of behavior in school? Why do you think boys often get away with year after year? What causes this violence against girls?
  2. Joy is left to fend for herself against Danny and his nastiness. Do teens ever stick up for each other? When? What should she do in this situation?
  3. In the end, what will happen between Joy and Danny now? Will he continue to harass her at school? Will she reveal his secrets? What makes you think so or not?

Sean O’Connell

  1. What does Sean learn about Nicole on this day that he never admitted to himself before?
  2. What do you think will happen when Kelly comes home? Will they admit what happened between them in the garden? Should they?
  3. How has Sean changed over the course of this one day? Which character do you think changed the most? Why?
  4. Do the stories in this collection represent typical teen lives or not? Why?
  5. Which characters did you most identify with in the story? Why?


Language Arts:

Write a letter from one character to another whose stories did not connect in the original. What would they learn from each other?

Choose the music that you think should be played during one of the chapters. Why did you pick this song? How does the rhythm and instrumentation add to the scene? Why these lyrics?

Create a piece of art through the eyes of one of the characters in the novel but don’t reveal your identity! Then, have an art gallery and see if students can identify who the piece is supposed to represent.

Social Studies:
Create a pamphlet about one of the issues that appears in this collection:

sexual harassment
murder among teens
casual sex and its consequences