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Reader's Companion to the Novels of Van Whitfield

Something's Wrong with Your Scale!
Doubleday Hardcover
$22.95 U.S./$34.95 Canada

Beeperless Remote
Anchor Trade Paperback
$10.95 U.S./$15.95 Canada

Reader's Companion to the Novels of Van Whitfield © 1999 Doubleday.


1. Introduction
2. Questions for Discussion: Something's Wrong with Your Scale
3. Questions for Discussion: Beeperless Remote


In Something's Wrong with Your Scale!, Sonny Walker is a thirty-something Mr. Nice Guy who has found companionship and comfort with Marsha. The only problem is that he's become too comfortable. Weighing seventy-five pounds more than when the relationship began, Sonny finds himself dumped by Marsha, but determined to lose the weight and get her back. In a heartwarming tale that is alternately humorous, wise, and ultimately self-affirming, Van Whitfield has created a thoroughly delicious and engaging novel sure to be enjoyed by those who have waged the battle of the bulge, or know someone who has.

With a style that is simultaneously self-effacing and downright hilarious, Van Whitfield's first novel, Beeperless Remote, is the tale of one man who has been thrown into the dating pool and is struggling to get out. Shawn Wayne is a single, employed, hard-bodied, former All-American looking for his ideal woman. He may have an obsession with ESPN's "SportsCenter," money, and going to the gym, but he's a good guy. According to his best friend, Kelly, however, he may have to "expand his universe" a little to find the right woman.

Armed with a cell phone, a pager, an answering machine, and his mother's wisdom, Shawn is back in the game, but his search for the woman of his dreams leads to dating misadventures ranging from nightmare blind dates and underage flings to encounters with married swingers. Then he meets Troi. Is she the one?

Beeperless Remote appeared on both the Blackboard and Emerge bestseller lists, and has also been optioned as a feature film. Van Whitfield established the "Education Works!" Foundation to encourage literary excellence among young people. He's single and lives in suburban Washington, D.C.

Something's Wrong with Your Scale!

1. Sonny Walker, the lead character in Something's Wrong with Your Scale!, is dropped by his girlfriend Marsha because he gained too much weight. Is Marsha wrong for dropping him, or should she be viewed in a positive light for being honest and straightforward? How could Marsha have better handled the situation? If you were involved with someone who had gained a significant amount of weight over the course of the relationship, would it be a problem? How would you respond if you thought a mate or potential mate were overweight?

2. Kayla Jennings, Sonny's new love interest, is portrayed as an intelligent, successful, overweight woman. How would you describe her relationship with Jonathan James Leslie? Considering her achievements, is her relationship with Sonny, a low-level employee at The Sports Authority, realistic? During a phone call, Sonny calls her, "The big girl." How did you feel about this statement, particularly since Sonny has a weight problem of his own?

3. When Sonny and Kayla first dine out at Leon's Eat & Weigh Kountry Buffet, they are insulted by a waiter and his brother. How do you feel about that incident and Kayla and Sonny's response? Are you aware of incidents of this sort? Have you ever been out with someone who was clearly overeating and was insulted by the wait staff or by other customers in the restaurant? If so, how did that make you feel? Do you think that people who are overweight are sometimes treated unfairly?

4. Chet and E, Sonny's closest friends, are depicted as acknowledging Sonny's weight problem, yet they have disdain for overweight people. Are their attitudes typical? How would you handle a friend who discrimates against a particular group of people to which you also happen to belong? Did Sonny overreact the night he and his friends were drinking?

5. Like Shawn in Beeperless Remote, Sonny is dropped by a woman he cares about, yet he never tells his closest friends. Is this typical of the men you know? Who do men talk to when they have concerns about their relationships?

6. Van Whitfield said that while interviewing people for Something's Wrong with Your Scale! he found that overweight people were often not attracted to other overweight people. How do you explain this? What do you suppose are the issues regarding overweight people and romance? Are those with weight problems perceived as especially romantic or particularly unromantic?

7. In one sequence, Kayla says that other people had a bigger problem with her weight than she did. How do you think those with weight problems are perceived by others? How do you think they perceive themselves? Are you uncomfortable with overweight people? If you had a friend that you thought was overweight, but who didn't seem bothered by it, would you address it?

8. In a scene at Sonny's job, he is asked to pose as a "jumbo family-sized tent." Do you think overweight people are subjected to workplace ridicule more than those without weight problems? How are those with weight problems perceived in the workplace? Could a weight problem cause one to miss out on a promotion? Do you think a subordinate sees a supervisor with a weight problem as a competent supervisor or as "just another fat person?"

9. Did Something's Wrong with Your Scale! affect your perception of people with weight concerns and the problems they endure? Do you feel the book would be beneficial to younger people with weight problems?

10. Van Whitfield has been hailed for his unique writing style and use of metaphors and humor. How would you define his style? Is his use of dialogue realistic and/or effective? How, if at all, does Sonny's tone differ from Shawn Wayne's in Beeperless Remote? What are the strengths of Van's style and what might be his shortcomings?

Beeperless Remote

1. Shawn utilizes a rating system to describe six different types of women. Do you feel this system is accurate? Do you see yourself or your friends somewhere in this system? What numbers and phrases would you attach to men?

2. Shawn's mother plays a dominant role in his life. Does this accurately reflect the mother/son relationships of the men in your life? What piece of his mother's advice did you find especially thoughtful?

Did you find Mrs. Wayne's advice to be consistent with that of your mother?

3. Troi, Shawn's main love interest, is depicted as a focused, career-oriented woman of the '90s. What do you think she saw in Shawn? Would you have gone to the black-tie dinner with him? Was Shawn misled?

4. In Beeperless Remote, Whitfield sets up several different dating scenarios. Have you and your friends found yourselves in similar situations? How and where do single men and women meet today? Would you date a man like Shawn? Do you know men like Shawn?

5. Beeperless Remote ends in a climactic fashion. In your opinion, what happens next? Will Donnie maintain his new way of life? Will Kelly's relationship with Lance continue? What will happen when Troi comes back to D.C.? Will Dawn and Shawn persevere? What do you think is the "good news" Dawn refers to in her last message?

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