Laurie Faria Stolarz
About the book:
High atop Hathorne Hill, just outside of Boston, sits Danvers State Hopsital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Local have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves in the back, and of cold winds felt through its underground tunnels. And then there are the treasures found inside, eerie remnants of its former tenants: journals, hair combs, bars of soap, even old medical records, all left behind for trespassers to view.
On the eve of the hospital’s demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it’s an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents’ diner. For the others, it’s a chance to be on TV, or for a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls and down every dark passageway, these high schoolers will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and of the spirits who still might.
- Did you scare yourself writing this novel?
- What’s your writing process- do you plot or just dive right into the story?
- What books have influenced you most as a writer?
- What can your fans look forward to next?
- What is Derik interested in doing at the old mental institution, Danvers Sate Hospital? What do you know about the historical treatment of people with mental illnesses? Would you want to visit such a place or not? Why?
- Who was Liz named after? What has she been raised to believe is her destiny? Is it fair for parents to push their kids into a particular academic field or sport? Where is the line between support and encouragement and pressure and demanding? Have you ever been pressured into anything by your parents?
- Derik, too, has a future planned out by his parents. What do they want him to do? Do you know anyone in a family business? What does Derik believe is his only way out? Which family member supports his filmmaking efforts? Have you ever had an extended family member or other adult become a mentor like this?
- What personal interest does Mimi have in the Danvers Hospital? What does she hope to discover there? Is it a realistic goal?
- Who are Greta and Tony? Why do they agree to go along with the project? How would you describe their personalities? What does Chet add to the ensemble? What are his reasons for going? Who would you most likely become friends with in this motley group? Why?
- Have you ever thought about creating a film? What topic would most inspire you? Have you ever watched any documentaries or independent films? How do they differ from industry films?
- Everyone seems to have a moment of terror in the novel. Which is the freakiest moment to you? Do you think they are creating the terror or is it real? What can fear do to your reason and senses? Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Can they make connections with humans?
- Who is Christine? How does she almost become another member of the project? What do they learn about her history? What do they discover about her story?
- How do the individuals make unlikely connections because of the project? Have you ever been involved in something that created impossible friendships like these, at least for a while? What kinds of experiences make people closer? Do they last past this one night? Why?
- How do each of the teens change over the course of this one night? Are they all positive changes or are there some negative repercussions to this night as well? Who do you think changed the most? Why?
Write a deleted scene through the eyes of your favorite character in the novel. Try to pick up the voice and have the events in your scene be authentic to the story, character, and their relationships. It can be before, during or after the closing of the novel.
Character Chart: Fill out the following chart as you read the novel
Why involved in Project 17
In the end…
Research the treatment of the mentally ill and mentally disabled. Create a PowerPoint presentation or a website about what you learned. Discuss how you think treatment options might change in the next one hundred years for the mentally ill.
Choose your favorite scene in the novel. Find or create a piece of music which you think will accompany the scene. Explain your choice in a brief journal.
Experiment with the art of filmmaking. Take at least twenty minutes of footage at a location and event of your choice. If possible, experiment with editing to create a five minute presentation to share with the class.