Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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Little Beasts


In this evocative debut, the accidental murder of an eight-year-old forces a working-class community to face its demons.

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Discussion Guide for Little Beasts

1. What are some key details in the early chapters that lead readers to believe Turnbull is a poor town?

2. What does the narrator’s description of each parents’ reaction to their children attending the evictions say about the three main characters and their upbringing?

3. Why do the kids object so strongly to Motor Murray taking away some of the discarded belongings after the sheriff’s eviction?

4. What does revealing that there will be a murder in the early pages of the novel accomplish in terms of plot development and theme?

5. How would you describe Janet Illworth’s reflection on how she first met her husband back in high school? Has her memory of the moment soured? Why?

6. What does David Westwood’s story about running into the cone during gym class suggest about his life? What does it suggest about life in general?

7. Why is James’s determination to build the tree fort important? What might it symbolize?

8. Describe some of the reversals we see in certain characters from who they were at the beginning of the novel, to who they are at the end.

9. Analyze Ivan’s statement that “a thing doesn’t stay ugly forever” using textual evidence that supports this claim.

10. The author has stated, “Violence is often a rippling circle perpetrated by governments, communities, school districts, and eventually rippling outward toward the children. In the midst of this, there are those of us calling out for rescue.” What specific examples can you provide that support this statement. Who, in the novel, is in need of rescue, and do you believe they have been rescued?