About the Book
Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.
That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and kindness, honesty and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.
Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.
Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.
Key Idea and Details
1. Why is Vicky so sure at the end of chapter one that she will try to kill herself again? What happens during her first meal with Mona, E.M., and Gabriel that is different from her life at home? What does she mean when she thinks to herself, “Finally . . . Truth” (p. 22)?
2. Discuss Mona’s theory “about how mental illness makes people smart” (p. 65). What does she mean? List the ways each of the members of the GTH acts that is “smart” and how it makes them feel about themselves. How does this relate to Gabriel’s statement: “Depression is bad, but it can teach us some things” (p. 174)?
3. Discuss the phrase: “You can lie to others if you want—we all have to do that to stay alive—but don’t lie to yourself about what you feel” (p. 69). What are the ways that Vicky has been lying to herself? What does she learn during her stay at Lakeview and at the ranch about being honest with herself?
4. How do the members of Vicky’s therapy group help each other? In what ways are their lives different from each other? In what ways are their lives similar? Why is Gabriel so reluctant to share the reason he is in the hospital?
5. At what point does Vicky start looking ahead and realize that she can choose life? What role does Dr. Desai play in her recovery? Why does Dr. Desai want the members of the group to come to her ranch? What does the experience at the ranch mean to each of them?
6. Discuss Vicky’s relationship with her sister Becca over the course of the book. How does that relationship change and grow? How does Becca help Vicky understand their father and stepmother in a different way? Compare Vicky’s experience of family with the experiences of the others in the group.
Craft and Structure
7. Discuss the author’s use of the present tense throughout this story. How does the use of present tense affect your reading and understanding of
8. Why do you think the author chose to begin the book with Vicky’s letter to Juanita, her nana? How does the letter—and the words Vicky chooses to use in that letter—set the tone at the beginning of the book?
9. Analyze the author’s choice of words in specific scenes and how they enhance what happens during those scenes. Discuss his use of humor and perspective and how that balances the sometimes-difficult themes. At what points in the plot is humor important, and when is it necessary to make the tone more serious?
10. Discuss the ways in which the author helps us to get to know the four members of the GTH group. How does the author reveal the challenges that each of the four is facing? Do we learn more about each of them in the group discussions, through one-on-one conversations, or through their actions at the ranch?
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
11. Discuss the meaning of the stories Dr. Desai tells her patients about the man she knew in India and his elephant. What meaning do these stories have for each of the members of the group? How does the story about the monkey and the mango in the cage help Vicky understand herself better?
12. What does E.M. mean when he says, “All I know, I learned from Huitzilopochtli” (p. 114)? How does an ancient Aztec deity relate to E.M.’s life in the twenty-first century? Why does E.M. call Vicky “Huichi” after he gets to know her? What effect does that name have on Vicky?
Discussion Questions cover Common Core State Standards for Reading: Literature, Grades 9–12.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9.
1. The author chose to use Spanish words intermingled with English in this book. If you are unfamiliar with these words or phrases, make a note of them and look up their meaning. Can you infer their meaning from the context? How does this use of language help you to understand the characters better? CCSS.RL.9–12.4
2. Consider the two poems of Emily Dickinson that Vicky reads. List the images the poet uses in each piece. What ideas do these poems contain that aid Vicky’s recovery? Imagine the poem Vicky is writing in the epilogue and write your own poem inspired by the kinds of images you think she might use. CCSS.RL.9–12.7; CCSS.W.9–12.2
3. Research the legend of Huitzilopochtli and compare it to legends of ancient gods from other civilizations. Write a short synopsis of the ways these legends inform our understanding of human nature. CCSS.RL.9–12.9; CCSS.W.9–12.7
Blauner, Susan Rose. How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention. HarperCollins, 2002.
A memoir about surviving depression and suicidal thoughts with many helpful tips and tools from someone who has “been there.”
Carlson, Dale, with Dr. Michael Bower. Out of Order: Young Adult Manual of Mental Illness and Recovery. Bick Publishing House, 2013.
This helpful, straightforward guide describes many types of mental disorders and how to find the right kind of help.
Cozic, Charles. Teenage Mental Illness (Compact Research series). ReferencePoint Press, 2011.
Parks, Peggy J. Teenage Suicide (Compact Research series). ReferencePoint Press, 2012.
These two books provide an overview of mental illness and suicide issues, especially as they relate to the teen years, along with useful graphics and awide variety of help that is available.
Foreman, Gayle. I Was Here. Viking, 2015.
When her best friend, Meg, commits suicide, Cody is shocked and devastated. There’s a lot that Meg never told her, but when Cody finally is able to open an encrypted computer file, everything is suddenly thrown into question.
Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. McElderry Books, 2008.
Three teens experience the aftereffects of suicide attempts in this novel that explores their pain in vivid free verse format.
Rapp, Adam. Under the Wolf, Under the Dog. Candlewick, 2004.
Steve is in a downward spiral after his mother’s death and his brother’s suicide, but tries to find a way to bring hope back into his life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Trevor Project (especially for LGBTQ young people)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
A Teenager’s Guide to Depression
My Broken Palace
About the Author
Francisco X. Stork is the author of six books, including Marcelo in the Real World, which received five starred reviews and won the Schneider Family Book Award for Teens; The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, named a New York Times “Editors’ Choice”; and Irises. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and spent his teenage years in El Paso, Texas. He now lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, and you can visit his website online at www.FranciscoStork.com.
Discussion Guide prepared by Connie Rockman, Youth Literature Consultant and Editor of the 8th, 9th, and 10th books in the H. W. Wilson (Salem Press) Junior Authors and Illustrators series.