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Written by Robert CormierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Robert Cormier

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On Sale: March 19, 2013
Pages: 144 | ISBN: 978-0-307-53081-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Francis Joseph Cassavant is eighteen. He has just returned home from the Second World War, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero.

Francis lost most of his face when he fell on a grenade in France. He received the Silver Star for bravery, but was it really an act of heroism? Now, having survived, he is looking for a man he once admired and respected, a man adored by many people, a man who also received a Silver Star for bravery. A man who destroyed Francis's life.


Francis lost most of his face when he fell on a grenade in France. He received the Silver Star for bravery, but was it really an act of heroism? Now, having survived, he is looking for a man he once admired and respected, a man adored by many people, a man who also received a Silver Star for bravery. A man who destroyed Francis's life. -->

Excerpt

Oh, I have eyes because I can see and eardrums because I can hear but no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh.  But that's fine, like Dr.  Abrams says, because it's sight and hearing that count and I was not handsome to begin with.  He was joking, of course.  He was always trying to make me laugh.

If anything bothers me, it's my nose.  Or rather, the absence of my nose.  My nostrils are like two small caves and they sometimes get blocked and I have to breathe through my mouth.  This dries up my throat and makes it hard for me to swallow.  I also become hoarse and cough a lot.  My teeth are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm, which makes it possible for me to wear dentures.  In the past few weeks, my gums began to shrink, however, and the dentures have become loose and they click when I talk and slip around inside my mouth.

I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really.  I do have cheeks.  Sort of.  I mean, the skin that forms my cheeks was grafted from my thighs and has taken a long time to heal.  My thighs sting when my pants rub against them.  Dr.  Abrams says that all my skin will heal in time and my cheeks will someday be as smooth as a baby's arse.  That's the way he pronounced it: arse.  In the meantime, he said, don't expect anybody to select you for a dance when it's Girls' Choice at the canteen.

Don't take him wrong, please.

He has a great sense of humor and has been trying to get me to develop one.

I have been trying to do just that.  But not having much success. -->


The gun is like a tumor on my thigh as I walk through the morning streets against the wind that never dies down. April sunlight stings my eyes but the wind dissipates its heat, blustering against store windows and kicking debris into the gutters.

At Ninth and Spruce, I pause and look up at the three-decker and the windows of the second floor, where Larry LaSalle can be found at last. Does he suspect my presence here on the street? Does he have a premonition that he has only a few minutes left to live?

I am calm. My heartbeat is normal. What's one more death after the others in the villages and fields of France? The innocent faces of the two young Germans appear in my mind. But Larry LaSalle is not innocent.

The steps leading to the second floor are worn from use and age, and I think of all the people who have climbed stairs like these, who have worked in the shops and come home heavy with weariness at the end of the day. As I stand at the door of Larry LaSalle's tenement, I touch the bulge in my pocket to verify the existence of the gun. The sound of my knocking is loud and commanding in the silent hallway.

No response. I wait. I rap on the door again, hand clenched as a fist this time.

"Come on in, the door's not locked," Larry LaSalle calls out. That voice is unmistakable, a bit feeble now, yet still the voice that cheered us at the Wreck Center.

Hesitant suddenly, uncertain--his voice giving reality to what I must do--I step into the tenement and into the fragrance of pea soup simmering on the black stove, steam rising from a big green pot.

He is sitting in a rocking chair by the black coal stove, and narrows his eyes, squinting to see who has come into his tenement. He is pale, eyes sunk into his sockets like in the newsreel at the Plymouth, and he seems fragile now, as if caught in an old photograph that has faded and yellowed with age. His eyes blink rapidly as if taking quick pictures of me. Is there a glimmer of fear in his eyes? My heart quickens at the possibility.

"Francis, Francis Cassavant," I announce. It's important for him to know immediately who I am. I don't want to waste any time.

"Ah, Francis," he says, his eyes flashing pleasure because he doesn't sense my mission.

"Come in, come in," he says, the old enthusiasm back in his voice.

He rises slowly from the chair, steadying therocker as he lifts himself up. As he holds out his hands in greeting, I go forward to meet him. We shake hands. At the last minute, when it seems we might embrace as old friends and comrades, teacher and pupil, I pull away. His white hands clutch the air before he clasps them together and settles back into the chair.

"Sit, sit," he says, indicating the chair next to the window opposite his own.

"Take off your jacket," he says. "Your Red Sox cap, too, and your scarf . . ."

I don't move. I don't take off anything. I don't plan to stay long, only long enough to carry out my mission.

"Don't be afraid to show your face, Francis. That face, what's left of it, is a symbol of how brave you were, the Silver Star you earned . . ."



an excerpt from Heroes

        My name is Francis Joseph Cassavant and I have just returned to Frenchtown
        in Monument and the war is over and I have no face.

        Oh, I have eyes because I can see and eardrums because I can hear but
        no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh. But that's fine, like
        Dr. Abrams says, because it's sight and hearing that count and I was not
        handsome to begin with. He was joking, of course. He was always trying
        to make me laugh.

        If anything bothers me, it's my nose. Or rather, the absence of my nose.
        My nostrils are like two small caves and they sometimes get blocked and
        I have to breathe through my mouth. This dries up my throat and makes
        it hard for me to swallow. I also become hoarse and cough a lot. My teeth
        are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm, which makes it possible
        for me to wear dentures. In the past few weeks my gums began to shrink,
        however, and the dentures have become loose and they click when I talk
        and slip around inside my mouth.

        I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really. I do have cheeks.
        Sort of. I mean, the skin that forms my cheeks was grafted from my thighs
        and has taken a long time to heal. My thighs sting when my pants rub against
        them. Dr. Abrams says that all my skin will heal in time and my cheeks
        will someday be as smooth as a baby's arse. That's the way he pronounced
        it: arse. In the meantime, he said, don't expect anybody to select you
        for a dance when it's Girl's Choice at the canteen.

        Don't take him wrong, please.

        He has a great sense of humor and has been trying to get me to develop
        one.

        I have been trying to do just that.

        But not having much success.
Robert Cormier

About Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier - Heroes

Photo © James Patrick Langlands

“I can’t remember a time, really, when I haven’t been a writer. . . . Reading and writing were the two great escapes of my life and I suppose they still are.”—Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier is a Margaret A. Edwards Award winner, and his books repeatedly appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association, The New York Times, and School Library Journal.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Robert Cormier (pronounced kor-MEER) lived all his life in Leominster, Massachusetts, a small town in the north-central part of the state, where he grew up as part of a close, warm community of French Canadian immigrants and lived with his wife, Connie, also from Leominster, and where they raised their three daughters and one son—all adults now. They never saw a reason to leave. “There are lots of untold stories right here on Main Street,” Cormier once said.

A newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years (working for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Fitchburg Sentinel), Cormier was often inspired by news stories. What makes his works unique is his ability to make evil behavior understandable, though, of course, still evil. “I’m very much interested in intimidation,” he told an interviewer from School Library Journal. “And the way people manipulate other people. And the obvious abuse of authority.” All of these themes are evident in his young adult classic and best-known book, The Chocolate War. A 15-year-old fan of Cormier’s told him, “You always write from inside the person.”

Cormier traveled the world, from Australia (where he felt particularly thrilled by putting his hand in the Indian Ocean) and New Zealand to most of the countries in Europe, speaking at schools, colleges, and universities, and to teacher and librarian associations. He visited nearly every state in the nation. While Cormier loved to travel, he said many times that he also loved returning to his home in Leominster.

Cormier was a practicing Catholic and attended parochial school, where in seventh grade, one of his teachers discovered his ability to write. But Cormier had always wanted to be a writer: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to get something down on paper.” His first poems were published in the Leominster Daily Enterprise, and his first professional publication occurred while he was a freshman at Fitchburg State College. His professor, Florence Conlon, sent his short story, without his knowledge, to The Sign, a national Catholic magazine. The story, titled “The Little Things That Count,” sold for $75.

Cormier’s first work as a writer was at radio station WTAG in Worcester, MA, where he wrote scripts and commercials from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, he began his award-winning career as a newspaperman with the Worcester Telegram, first in its Leominster office and later in its Fitchburg office. He wrote a weekly human-interest column, “A Story from the Country,” for that newspaper.

In 1955, Cormier joined the staff of the Fitchburg Sentinel, which later became the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise, as the city hall and political reporter. He later served as wire and associate editor and wrote a popular twice-weekly column under the pseudonym John Fitch IV. The column received the national K.R. Thomason Award in 1974 as the best human-interest column written that year. That same year, he was honored by the New England Associated Press Association for having written the best news story under pressure of deadline. He left newspaper work in 1978 to devote all his time to writing.

Robert Cormier’s first novel, Now and at the Hour, was published in 1960. Inspired by his father’s death, the novel drew critical acclaim and was featured by Time magazine for five weeks on its “Recommended Reading” list. It was followed in 1963 by A Little Raw on Monday Mornings and in 1965 by Take Me Where the Good Times Are, also critically acclaimed. The author was hailed by the Newark Advocate as being “in the first rank of American Catholic novelists.”

In 1974, Cormier published The Chocolate War, the novel that is still a bestseller. Instantly acclaimed, it was also the object of censorship attempts because of its uncompromising realism. In a front-page review in a special children’s issue of The New York Times Book Review, it was described as “masterfully structured and rich in theme,” and it went on to win countless awards and honors, was taught in schools and colleges throughout the world, and was translated into more than a dozen languages. I Am the Cheese followed in 1977 and After the First Death in 1979.

These three books established Cormier as a master of the young adult novel. In 1991, the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association presented him with the Margaret A. Edwards Award, citing the trio of books as “brilliantly crafted and troubling novels that have achieved the status of classics in young adult literature.”

In 1982, Cormier was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and its Adolescent Literature Assembly (ALAN) for his “significant contribution to the field of adolescent literature” and for his “innovative creativity.”

8 Plus 1, an anthology of short stories that have appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, The Sign, and Redbook, was published in 1980. In later years, many of the stories in the collection, notably “The Moustache,” “President Cleveland, Where Are You?” and “Mine on Thursdays,” appeared in anthologies and school textbooks. The collection also received the World of Reading Readers’ Choice Award, sponsored by Silver Burdett & Ginn, especially notable because young readers voted for Cormier to receive the prize.

I Have Words to Spend, a collection of his newspaper and magazine columns, was published in 1991, assembled and edited by his wife, Connie.

Robert Cormier’s other novels include The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, 1983; Beyond the Chocolate War, 1985; Fade, 1988; Other Bells for Us to Ring, 1990; We All Fall Down, 1991; Tunes for Bears to Dance To, 1992; In the Middle of the Night, 1995; Tenderness, 1997; Heroes, 1998; and Frenchtown Summer, 1999. Frenchtown Summer won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction in April 2000. All his novels have won critical praise and honors.

In the Middle of the Night and Tenderness were short-listed for the Carnegie Medal in England, and Heroes received a “Highly Commended” citation for that same award, unique honors because the Carnegie Medal is traditionally awarded to a British book.

Cormier's novels have frequently come under attack by censorship groups because they are uncompromising in their depictions of the problems young people face each day in a turbulent world. Teachers and librarians have been quick to point out that his novels are eminently teachable, valuable, and moral. His novels are taught in hundreds of schools and in adolescent literature courses in colleges and universities.

Though many of his books are described as written for young adults, in fact people of all ages read and enjoy Cormier’s work. His themes of the ordinariness of evil and what happens when good people stand by and do nothing are treated seriously, and he never provides the easy comfort of a happy ending. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.

In an interview, Cormier was asked if he had accomplished what he set out to do at the beginning of his writing career. He answered with characteristic humility: “Oh, yes. My dream was to be known as a writer and to be able to produce at least one book that would be read by people. That dream came true with the publication of my first novel–and all the rest has been a sweet bonus. All I’ve ever wanted to do, really, was to write.” His writing has left the world a legacy of wonderful books, a body of work that will endure.


PRAISE


BEYOND THE CHOCOLATE WAR
“Cormier is almost unique in his powerful integration of the personal, political, and moral.”—The New York Times Book Review


FADE
“Imagine what might happen if Holden Caulfield stepped into H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man, and you’ll have an idea how good Fade is. . . . I was absolutely riveted.”—Stephen King


IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
“Convincingly and enticingly complex.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“One of the eeriest of Cormier's thrillers, this account of vengeance and obsession provides the brand of suspense that has earned him so many fans.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Spectacular . . . unnerving and piercingly honest . . . it doesn’t end at the end.”—The New York Times Book Review

“From the very first page, readers will be caught up in the story.”—Booklist

“Superbly written, with characters well developed and a tight, fast-moving plot. . . . A must read.”—VOYA

“An intense and powerful exploration of the burdens of accusation and guilt.”—The Horn Book Magazine


HEROES
“Cormier is once again on top of his game. . . . His story will hold fans from first page to last.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Powerful.”—Starred, VOYA

“[A] powerhouse novel . . . that will follow the reader long after the story has ended.”—Booklist

“Compelling . . . and thought-provoking.”—School Library Journal


OTHER BELLS FOR US TO RING
“Superbly crafted. . . . A provocative look at the meaning of belief.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews


TENDERNESS
“Cormier is in top form in this chilling portrait of a serial murderer. . . . [A] gripping tale.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“A mesmerizing plunge into the mind of a psychopathic teen killer that is both deeply disturbing and utterly compelling.”—Focus Review, Booklist

“The novel has a wealth of depth and complexity . . . Cormier’s best yet.”—The Book Report

“Vivid characterizations. . . . Cormier performs literary magic by making us empathize with these two teenagers who live at society’s far edges.”—VOYA

“Suspenseful and chilling. . . . Vintage Cormier: short pithy sentences and bends in the text take the reader along startling paths.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Praise | Awards

Praise

"[A] powerhouse novel . . . that will follow the reader long after the story has ended."
--Booklist

"Cormier's . . . story will hold fans from the first page to the last."
--Publisher Weekly, starred

"Powerful."
--VOYA, starred

Awards

WINNER 1999 Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
WINNER 1999 ALA Quick Pick for Young Adult Reluctant Readers
NOMINEE 2000 Maryland--Black-Eyed Susan Children's Book List
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Teachers Guide

About the Book

In Robert Cormier’s unforgettable novels, an individual often stands alone, fighting for what is right–or just to survive–against powerful, sinister, and sometimes evil people. His books look unflinchingly at tyranny and the abuse of power, at treachery and betrayal, at guilt and forgiveness, love and hate, and the corruption of innocence. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.

The questions that follow are intended to spur discussion and to provoke thoughtful readers to contemplate some of the issues of identity, character, emotion, and morality that make Cormier’s books so compelling.

About the Guide

Eighteen-year-old Francis Joseph Cassavant has just returned home from World War II, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero.

About the Author

Robert Cormier’s writing is unique in its richness and power, and he was often called one of the finest young adult novelists in America. His books are brilliant and complex structures full of intricate wordplay and subtle thought.

Robert Cormier’s novels have received many awards, consistently appearing on the Best Books for Young Adults lists of the American Library Association. In 1991 he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in writing for teens, for The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death. Most recently, Frenchtown Summer was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction.

Cormier lived all his life in the little New England mill town of Leominster, Massachusetts, where he grew up as part of a close, warm community of French Canadian immigrants. He and his wife, Connie, had four children and many grandchildren who lived nearby. He was for many years a newspaperman specializing in human interest stories.

The Rag and Bone Shop was the last novel completed by Cormier before his death in 2000.

Discussion Guides

1. The title of this novel could be meant ironically. In other words, this may be a book about “heroes” who are not true heroes. How many examples of such non-heroes do you see in the book?

2. The book begins with Francis’s shocking statement that he “has no face.” In the context of the story, what are other metaphorical expressions about “face” that are relevant? How do these apply to Francis?

3. What is your definition of a hero? Francis feels that he is “a fake.” When he threw himself on the grenade it was not to save his comrades but to end his own life. Is a heroic act still heroic even if it’s done for the wrong reasons?

4. Francis says about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “We had discovered in one moment on a Sunday afternoon that the world was not a safe place anymore.” (p. 79) What was the significance of that event for America? What happened as a result?

5. Forgiveness is a major theme in many of Cormier’s novels. Trace how each of the three main characters forgive and are forgiven, and how they are affected when forgiveness is withheld and when it is granted. Which is harder–to forgive someone else or yourself?

Teacher's Guide



NOTE TO TEACHERS

Robert Cormier's books look unflinchingly at tyranny and the abuse of power, at treachery and betrayal, at guilt and forgiveness, love and hate, and the corruption of innocence. His books, though, are most of all good stories, full of suspense and surprises and dramatic action as his characters struggle--sometimes unsuccessfully--to find an appropriate response to the existence of evil.

The discussion topics in this guide are meant to help in your exploration of Robert Cormier's provocative novel Heroes by providing insights into theme and character, clarifying points in the plot, and analyzing the larger psychological, literary, and sociological aspects of the novel. The questions are designed to appeal to a variety of reading levels and tastes. You may want to try them all, or you may want to focus on those that are most interesting and appropriate for your group.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

In this lean and powerful novel, Robert Cormier quietly, remorselessly, probes the nature of heroism as it is reflected through the remains of a young life forever shattered by a terrible act.

Francis Joseph Cassavant is 18. He has just returned home from World War II, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero. Francis's ghastly disfigurement gives him the anonymity he needs for his burning "mission": to avenge the rape of his high school girlfriend by killing her seducer, Larry LaSalle, the youth leader whose movie-star good looks and easy charisma had made him a hero to the kids of Frenchtown.

But behind this romantic obsession, Francis is driven by his own guilt for doing nothing to stop the rape, a guilt which has driven him to seek instant death in the war by throwing himself on a grenade--only to survive as a faceless and unwilling hero.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Robert Cormier (pronounced kor-MEER) has always lived in Leominster, Massachusetts, a small city in the north-central part of the state. He and his wife, Connie, also from Leominster, still live in the house where they raised their three daughters and one son--all adults now--and they see no reason to leave. "There are lots of untold stories right here on Main Street," Cormier says.

A newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years (working for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, and the Fitchburg Sentinel), Cormier is sometimes inspired by news stories. What makes his works unique is his ability to make evil behavior understandable, though, of course, still evil. "I'm very much interested in intimidation," he told an interviewer from School Library Journal. "And the way people manipulate other people. And the obvious abuse of authority." All of these themes are evident in his young-adult classic and best-known book, The Chocolate War. A 15-year-old fan of his said, "You always write from inside the person."

TEACHING IDEAS

Suggested Topics for Discussion

1. The title of this novel could be meant ironically. Irony is a literary expression or style marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. In other words, this may be a book about "heroes" who are not true heroes. How many examples of such non-heroes do you see in the book?

2. Cormier uses an intriguing style of gradual revelation to tell his story, revealing who, what, and where by giving hints and clues that raise questions in our minds and build up the whole picture. The first chapter is the exposition, the part of the book that gives everything we need to know for the story to move forward. Look for phrases that first suggest the time and place, and that Francis has been in the army, has been wounded in a war, has been known but is now in hiding, has loved Nicole, and has come back for a dark purpose.

3. Cormier uses the same gradual and indirect revelation to introduce us to Francis's character. What clues do you find in the first chapter that show his kindness toward other people, his gentleness, his love of romance, his forgiving nature, his attitude toward his deformity, his tendency to obsession and singleness of purpose?

4. The book begins with Francis's shocking statement that he "has no face." In the context of the whole story, what are other metaphorical expressions about "face" that would be relevant here? For instance, what is the broader meaning of "to lose face," to be "faceless," to "face up" to something or to "face down" somebody? How do these apply to Francis?

5. Dr. Abrams jokes about Francis's disfigurement. Is this a good thing? Do you think it is kindly meant? Or deliberately cruel? How does Francis feel about it? When he is walking on the street, he notices that people glance at him in surprise and turn away quickly. How do you react when you see a disabled or disfigured person? How do you think they would like you to react?

6. In contrast to his usual subtlety, Cormier lets Francis describe with shocking directness and detail what it feels like to have no face. What do you imagine he looks like? Since Cormier was a great movie fan in his youth, the image of Francis could relate to horror film sources, perhaps the bandage-swathed Claude Raines in The Invisible Man. Look up a picture of the actor in makeup and compare with your own mental picture of Francis.

7. One of the first things Francis does in Frenchtown is to go to St. Jude's to pray. What do you think he means when he refers to the fragrance of old incense as "the odors of forgiveness"? Why does he pray for the man he is going to kill--and then feel shame for that prayer? Why doesn't he ask God to forgive his guilt for the rape? What else would he lose if he gave up that guilt?

8. What is your definition of a hero? Francis feels that he is "a fake" because he wanted to die but was "too much of a coward to kill myself." When he threw himself on the grenade it was not to save his comrades but to end his own life. Is a heroic act still heroic even if it's done for the wrong reasons?

9. The drunken Arthur Rivier says, "We weren't heroes. We were only there," and Francis remembers that Eddie Richards in the midst of the battle had cried out, "What are we doing here anyway?" Why do heroes so seldom feel heroic to themselves? At the end of the book, who does Francis say are the real heroes and why? Do you agree?

10. As Francis tries to fall asleep, he recites "the names of the guys in his platoon." Men in war often bond closely with the members of their group as they face danger together. Have you ever felt such an emotional link to other people as you faced something difficult together--on a sports team, for instance, or in the cast of a play? Describe how it felt.

11. "Everyone wanted to go to war in those days to defeat the Japs and the Germans," remembers Francis. We know this was not Francis's real motivation for joining the army. Do you suppose it was the real reason for most people, or are there other personal factors that might have been behind their decisions? Are there any good reasons to justify war? What actions by an enemy would make you willing to fight? (For a teacher's guide on The Images of War, click here.)

12. Francis says about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "We had discovered in one moment on a Sunday afternoon that the world was not a safe place anymore." What was the significance of that event for America? What happened as a result? Ask your grandparents or another older person what they remember of their feelings on that day and share it with the group.

13. A pun on "The Wreck Center" is that it is the center of the wreck of the lives of the three main characters. How is it appropriate for the story that this building has been tainted by a rejected lover's revenge shooting? What details dramatize its reputation as "a bad-luck place," and how does Cormier foreshadow what is to happen there?

14. Concealed and revealed identity is a theme in many of Cormier's books. In Heroes, Francis is very anxious to conceal his identity from his former friends and neighbors. Why? What does he tell us about his early life that shows that he has always had a tendency to hide? In what crucial episode does this prove to be the flaw in his character that leads to all his troubles?

15. Another case of concealed identity is the mystery surrounding the glamorous Larry LaSalle. Why do you think he has left show business and come back to a small town like Monument? What hints does Cormier give us that there is something wrong behind the movie-star facade?

16. Even at gunpoint Larry is unrepentant when Francis accuses him of the rape. He defends himself with the memory of his kindness to the kids at the Wreck Center, and asks, "Does that one sin of mine wipe away the good things?" Francis counters, "That's a question you should ask Nicole." What do you think she would answer? What would you answer?

17. Forgiveness is a major theme in this and in many of Cormier's novels. Trace how each of the three main characters forgive and are forgiven, and how they are affected when forgiveness is withheld and when it is finally granted. Which is harder--to forgive someone else or yourself?

18. Typically a novel is built around conflict, the suspense-creating tension that rises to a peak of excitement and is resolved at the climax of the story: Francis's mission to kill Larry; and his need to be freed from his own guilt about the rape. What is the climactic scene for each of these conflicts: How does Larry cheat Francis of his victory? How does Nicole heal him? Why is he not more disturbed when she lets him know she doesn't want to see him again?

19. Before he confronts Larry, Francis begins to "close doors to the future" by burning the addresses of Dr. Abrams and Enrico. Why does he do this, and what does he mean when he says "I have my own method of disposal"? In the end, after he has met with Nicole, what does he think about that lets us know he has reopened those doors to the future? Do you think Cormier has left a tiny bit of uncertainty about this? What words support your answer?


Teaching Ideas prepared by Patty Campbell, author of Presenting Robert Cormier and 1989 winner of the American Library Association's Grolier Award for distinguished service to young adults and libraries.

REVIEWS

* "Cormier is once again on top of his game. . . . His story will hold fans from first page to last."
--Starred, Publishers Weekly

* "Once again, Cormier has written a suspenseful novel that addresses serious questions of concern to most young adults."-- VOYA

"Powerful and thought-provoking."-- School Library Journal

"Emulating the sparse, sturdy prose of Francis' literary idol, Ernest Hemingway, Cormier sketches the dark underbelly of a brief historic time in shadows that will follow the readers long after the story has ended."-- Booklist

"The pacing is meticulous, the mood is tense, and the climactic confrontation between Francis and Larry is charged with ethical ambiguity. . . .Young adults struggling with their own moral choices may be sparked to discussion by the novel's ambivalent conclusion."-- The Bulletin

FURTHER READING

Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulsen[0-440-22838-7]


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