Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
by David Yoo
About the book:
If Albert Kim has learned one thing in his tragic adolescence, it’s that God (probably a sadistic teenage alien) does not want him to succeed at Bern High. By the end of sophomore year, Al is so tired of humiliation that he’s chosen to just forget girls and high school society in general, and enjoy the Zen-like detachment that comes from being an intentional loser.
Then he meets Mia Stone, and all the repressed hormones come flooding back. Mia, his coworker at the Bern Inn, is adorable, popular, and most intimidatingly, the ex-long-term girlfriend of Ivy-bound, muscle-bound king of BHS and world-class jerk, Ryan Stackhouse. But—chalk it up to the magic of Al’s inner beauty—by the end of a summer vacuuming hotel rooms and goofing off together, he and Mia are officially “something.”
Albert barely has time to ponder this miracle before the bomb drops: Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer, and he needs Mia’s support, i.e. constant companionship. True, he’s lost weight and he’s getting radiation, but that doesn’t make him any less of a jerk. And to Albert, it could not be more apparent that Ryan is using his cancer to steal Mia back. With the whole town rallying behind Ryan like he’s a fallen hero, and Mia emotionally confused and worried for Ryan, Al’s bid for love is not a popular campaign. In fact, it’s exactly like driving the wrong way on a five-lane highway.
In this desperately funny novel, David Yoo tells an authentic story of first love, and therein captures the agony, the mania, the kicking and screaming that define teenage existence.
About the author:
David Yoo’s first novel, Girls for Breakfast, was a Summer 2005 Book Sense Pick and a Reading Rants Top Ten Books for Teens. David is a graduate of Skidmore College with an MA in creative writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He resides in Boston with his wife and without his cat.
At the end of the prologue the narrator says, “I get to start this story where I want to start it because, like I said, this is my story, and what is a story, really, but a narrator’s defense.” (p.4) Do you agree with him? Are most stories just a defense of the action of the main character? Do narrators ever portray themselves in a poor light?
- How does Albert end up in a locked hotel room with Bern High’s Schools “IT” girl? Is this made of pure fantasy or an opportunity for a panic attack? Why?
- What has Albert’s social standing been at BHS? How did he cope with it? What would you do if something tragically humiliating happened on your first day of school? Is it possible to ever live down an incident like the broom dance?
- Describe Mia and Albert’s job at the Inn. What’s the worst summer job you’ve ever had? Would you be willing to vacuum all summer for minimum wage?
- Why is Albert a little (or maybe a LOT) socially stunted? Is it he to blame for his lack of communication and social skills? Do you think they improve over the summer and school year or not? Why?
- What mistakes do Al and Mia make while they’re working at the Inn? What’s the worst mistake you ever made while working? How does it bring them closer together?
- Describe how Mia and Al’s relationship develops over the course of the novel. Do you think that almost any two teenagers might fall for each other if they worked together in such a private, intimate place or not? When does their friendship turn into something more?
- Yoo’s writing is full of keen (and hilarious) observations about life as a teenager (like the description of being in a locked hotel room with a gorgeous girl, for instance). What is your favorite description? How does it compare to your own observations of high school?
- How does Albert change at school with Mia’s endorsement of liking him? Does it give him a false confidence and bravado? How do his classmates react to his summer transformation? Is it possible to change your social status in high school?
- How do Mia’s popular friends and her ex-boyfriend, “the House” react to her new love interest? Why do you think she doesn’t want to define their relationship? Do you think she might be embarrassed of Albert?
- What happens to Ryan that changes everything between Al and Mia? Do you think Ryan is manipulating Mia? Is she allowing it? How do some illnesses become such public property to a community?
- Describe the events at the Walk For Cancer event that Mia organized for Ryan’s benefit. Was Albert completely in the wrong or was he justified in finally speaking his mind to Ryan? How did he gain perspective on it later?
- Despite all the drama with Mia, Albert manages to land himself some friends. How does this happen for him? How did he grow out of his sixth grade friends? Is it wrong to hang out with people significantly younger than you?
Language Arts/ Reading:
Write a reader’s theater for one of the scenes (or one that could be in the book) between two or more characters. Try to make the dialogue as close to the character as possible. Act out for your class or video it and upload it.
Figure out how much an average teenager makes over the course of a summer. How long would it take you to earn the object of your desire (like a telescope)? How long to earn up for a car?
Research Hodgkin’s Disease or other types of cancer often diagnosed in young people. Create a pamphlet, poster, powerpoint or website about what you learned.
Host a Walk for Cancer like Mia created in the novel. Divide the work into committees so no one member is stuck doing the majority of the work.
Create a piece of sculpture through the eyes of Albert, Mia or Stackhouse. You can use a variety of media or a more traditional one like clay. Explain your piece in a brief artist’s statement on the back.