About a Boy
Will Freeman may have discovered the key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women – women who would not ordinarily look twice a Will – might not only be willing, but enthusiastic about dating him, then he was really onto something. Single mothers – bright, attractive, available women – thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them. SPAT: Single Parents – Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn’t going to let the fact that he didn’t have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn’t be the first thing he’d invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for…
The curriculet is being added to your library
Before you begin reading, think about the title. In your opinion, what does it mean to be a boy versus a man?
Which of the following is a valid inference about Marcus at this point in the text?
Marcus is a possible example of an unreliable narrator- a narrator whose perspective or voice may not be true to the situation. As you become more familiar with Marcus and his take on adult issues, you may begin to wonder whether Marcus misunderstands the adults in his life, or if he is the only one with a firm grasp on reality. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following lines provides evidence that Marcus is trying to be brave in his new home?
We have seriously shifted points of view! Although all of the narration is in third-person limited, we have TWO different points of view: Will and Marcus. (This annotation contains a video)
Will can best be described as
Will’s attitude toward family is going to be a driving force in this text. How do you feel about family? Does it make people more or less happy? Is it possible for family to do both? (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the clip from the film version of this text (linked below). How do the film and the text each develop Will’s character, specifically his attitude toward family and children? Which is a stronger portrayal?http://goo.gl/4CRn02
Macaulay Culkin, star of Home Alone and My Girl, was a major child star of the early 1990’s. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the narrator’s use of simile reveal about Marcus and his experience at school?
Joni Mitchell was a singer/songwriter who would have been popular with hippies like Marcus’ mom. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Marcus mean when he says he knew what she was doing? What is Ms. Maguire doing that causes Marcus to hate her?
Based on evidence from the passage, Pinky and Perky are most likely
Will and Marcus have both humiliated themselves in a social situation. Is the humiliation comparable? What could make one character’s humiliation seem worse than the other?
To what extent is Will actually "smooth and winning?" Use examples from the text to support your answer.
Which of the following best captures the meaning of "democratize" as used in this passage?
Recall Marcus and his mother's recent breakup. What themes about relationships, children, and family seem to be developing?
For Will, this relationship is mostly about
The overall tone of Will's chapter is
The perspectives in this text make it a great way to understand tone. Check out the video on tone below, and listen for tone- Will's attitude- in the following paragraph. (This annotation contains a video)
Fiona's depression is a major part of this story. Read about depression below in order to better understand what her character is going through. (This annotation contains a link)
What does the word "tiptoeing" mean in this context?
The kids at Marcus' school use some words and phrases specific to London's youth culture and punk scene. "Oi" functions similarly to the American "Yo." (This annotation contains an image)
The simile in this passage helps to
How would you characterize Will's decision? Does it seem realistic?
Which of the following details led to the shift in Will's behavior?
Pay attention to the way the author creates humor. If you had to define it or explain it in English language terms, what would you say makes Will's situation funny?
What does this line mean? What makes it interesting to read? Make sure your answer focuses on the words themselves.
Is there any grain of truth in any of this? How do you think Susie would react if she found out about Will?
How does the author use shifting perspectives to create meaning in the text? Use evidence from the text to describe the impact of the structure of the narration.
Which of the following statements best summarizes this observation about childhood and growing up?
How are the roles reversed for Marcus and his mum? Who do you thinks needs the other more?
Is Fiona responsible for Marcus' unhappiness at school? Why or why not? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
What do you think Fiona means when she says she and Marcus aren't doing each other any good? Do you agree with the suggestion that children have a responsibility to their parents' happiness?
Is there a point to Will? Why does he have to invent a son to feel purpose?
Will is motivated by all of the following except
Why do you think Will is so rude about the song? How would you feel in Will's shoes?
What is the impact of this sentence on the overall tone of the paragraph?
How does this align with your thoughts on what it means to be a man or a boy from the beginning of the text?
Compare and contrast Susie and Will's feelings in this scene. What do their worries reveal about their characters?
Take a moment to predict the impact it will have if and when Suzie and SPAT find out that Ned is a charade.
What does the author's use of alternating perspective add to our understanding of Will and Marcus? What additional details to we see about each of them as a result of the other's perspective?
This is an example of Marcus' narration falling short of the truth. We know Will is probably angry about being interrupted with Susie. Marcus thinks it's about the duck.
All of the following details from the passage build a sense of suspense in the text except
Although special effects and gruesome movie images lead us to believe that we've seen everything, most people are unprepared for the difficulties we face in everyday life.
Infer what Marcus means when he says that "that's not the point." Use evidence from the text, and comment on your own opinion about whether Fiona's welfare should make Marcus feel any better.
Rhetorical questions are questions that are not meant to be answered, but to make a point. In this case, Will is actually wondering this out loud, but the people around him assume he is being sympathetic. Will's facade is a complicated and recurring theme in this text.
Will's thoughts in this passage contribute to development of all of the following themes except
There is an interesting phenomenon here in which all of the adults seem to be responding to the situation the wrong way. The nurse actss though nothing serious happened, Suzie is talking as though they are having a sleepover, and Will is objectively weighing whether this life is for him.
Which of the following descriptions most closely echoes Fiona's comparison in this simile?
In this scene, the voice of the narrator drops out altogether. Pay attention to the way the absence of the narrator voice makes this scene feel more intimate between Marcus and Fiona.
Which of the following best captures the fundamental difference between Marcus and Will's new-found philosophies about life?
Groundhog Day came out in 1993. In addition to its significance to Marcus personally, it is one of many indicators of time period that is evident in this text. (This annotation contains an image)
The miscommunication, and seemingly ridiculous situation that ensues, is an example of situational irony. Watch the video below for more information. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is the least likely explanation for why Fiona isn't making the connection Marcus is?
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What is the impact of this list of activities on the overall meaning of the passage?
Is Marcus' childhood really over? Use evidence from the text to defend your stance on the extent to which Marcus is still a child.
Will's speech is loaded with sarcasm, or verbal irony. Watch the video below to review verbal irony. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the effect of Marcus' inability to comprehend Will's sarcasm? What does it highlight about each of their personalities?
In your own words, explain Marcus' new standards of what a family is, and who can and should be included.
Music is a major insight into the characters in this novel. Listen to a clip from Exodus below for an idea of the sound and vibe in Marcus' house. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the author use Will to reveal more about Fiona?
The irony of this scene is that Marcus is under the impression that it is a hot spot for Western celebrities. The line reveals that it is mainly a trap for foreign tourists.
What does the restaurant conflict reveal about how kids and adults perceive "nice" places differently? What does Marcus expect from somewhere "famous?" What would Will expect from a nice restaurant?
What is Marcus missing in his assessment of dating? Why can't Marcus see the whole picture?
The "silly fat Tory woman" is likely describing political views regarding
Will calls Fiona a cynic for not believing in marriage. What evidence is there that Will is in fact a romantic cynic? Of the two, who is more cynical?
The film to which Will is referring came out in 1979. It follows a father left with his son after his wife leaves him to find herself. (This annotation contains an image)
Press the link below to see a still of Fiona from this scene. How does her appearance match the descriptions in the text? Whose perspective do you think she was filmed from: Will or Marcus?http://goo.gl/HXV1Xi
Notice the way the author lumps these three "alternative" things together to create humor. If Fiona is "alternative," what is Will?
Why does it make Will uncomfortable that Fiona "means" it?
This scene exists only in the movie, but watch to see Will's eventual acceptance, and even embrace, of Fiona and Marcus' strangeness. (This annotation contains a video)
Will most likely speaks in questions in this scene for all of the following reasons except
This is the moment Will, and the reader, finally realizes the extent of Will's charade.
Which of the following themes of the text best summarizes this line?
Use daft in an original sentence. Use the "define" feature if you need to.
Like America's "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right," "Countdown" is a long-running afternoon gameshow. Marcus' line about how every kid knows it is a testament to its ubiquity in Britain. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following details from this passage does not indicate the time period in which the novel takes place?
Think of the pop and rock icons in our culture to whom this applies. What do you think is the connection between being memorialized as "cool" and drugs and premature deaths?
Click the link below for an excerpt from Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower. Then, compare and contrast the way Marcus and the narrator treat the theme of isolation at school.http://goo.gl/iiyPRx
Clearly, Marcus needs help being a normal kid. Do you think it's appropriate that Will is so prepared when it comes to "being a kid?"
Think about the way adults usually talk to kids. Is it true that adults do not often acknowledge when kids are "old enough" for things?
Use context to infer what the word "wally" means as it is used here.
Will is most likely trying to engage Marcus in conversation because
Marcus seems torn about whether to bring Will into his life in a real mentor role. Do you think Will is a suitable mentor for Marcus? (Remember- WE get to see Will's thoughts; Marcus does not). (This annotation contains an image)
How does Will's use of "Fucking hell" make Marcus feel? How does it compare or contrast to the things others in Marcus' life might be saying to him (focus on Suzie and Fiona).
Which of the following narrative devices most contributes to our understanding of this particular exchange between Will and Marcus?
As you continue reading, consider that divide between "real stuff" and the content of Will's life. What does Will really mean when he talks about "real" stuff?
The extended space preceding this paragraph alerts us to the fact that there is about to be some sort of narrative shift. Revisit the previous paragraph: what sort of shift might we expect?
The episode on the doorstep is most symbolic of which of the following patterns or themes emerging in the novel?
The video is from the National Bullying Prevention Center. What connections can you see between the video and Marcus's experience? (This annotation contains a video)
Using evidence from the text, analyze the ways in which Marcus and Will are each portrayed as boys and men. Who is the "boy" in About a Boy?
Adidas was one of the most popular athletic brands for Marcus' age group in the 1990's. (This annotation contains an image)
Follow the link below to read an excerpt from Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. Compare and contrast the way the two novels treat the themes of individuality and eccentricity.http://goo.gl/ijN2CD
This scene is precious and heart-breaking. Marcus realizes he can have tastes beyond those of his mother, and Will extends himself to find a solution to another person's troubles. (This annotation contains an image)
Fiona's repetition of everything Marcus says most likely indicates
"Fiddling" here is of course a euphemism- a nice way of mentioning an unpleasant subject. Fiona suspects that Will has been pursuing an inappropriate, likely sexual, relationship with Marcus.
How are Fiona and Will each equipped to help Marcus navigate high school? What is each of them lacking that Marcus needs? How does this fit in to Marcus' earlier assertion that "two is not enough" in a family?
"Row" is a word specific to the United Kingdom used to describe arguments and disputes.
What things has Fiona done with Marcus? For him? To him? Why is the distinction between with, for, and to important in her actions as a mother?
Examine the definition of hypocrisy below. Do you think Fiona's treatment of Marcus is hypocritical or protective? (This annotation contains an image)
Why is this line ironic?
Why do you think it's so important to Marcus to see someone besides Fiona? Why does it have to be Will?
What does Marcus' decision to use this line of reasoning reveal about the way his character- or at least his behavior- is changing?
How has "Santa's Super Sleigh" both filled and ruined Will's life?
Will's experience is made worse by the fact that the song so full of darkness for him is a Christmas carol. Do you have any "joyful" songs with dark memories attached to them in your life? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following lines contains a metaphor?
The M11 is a major auto thoroughfare in England. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following do Will and Fiona have in common?
Will's engagement in this conversation is evidence that he
This is an allusion to Murphy's Law, the adage that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy's Law is often blamed for selecting the longest check-out line or hitting traffic when you're running late.
Explain Will's metaphor that Marcus claiming he needs a father was his "nuclear" option. Given the impact of Marcus's decision, is this an apt metaphor?
Do you think this would be possible? In what ways has Will allowed Marcus to affect him more than he ever intended?
Looking back at this conversation, what do you think Fiona actually wants? What would Will need to say that would satisfy her motivation for this conversation?
This paragraph confirms which of the following points made in the previous chapter?
A headmistress is also a principal.
Compare and contrast Marcus' description of Ellie with her portrayal in the film, linked below.http://goo.gl/nMFTTy
This is a prime example of our perspective being blurred by Marcus's perspective. Marcus doesn't recognize the name, so he misperceives it.
The students leaving the office are likely white-faced because
Boiled sweets are another example of dialect. In the United States, they are called hard candies. (This annotation contains an image)
Marcus' assertion that he is a truant can best be described as
"Nevermind" came out in 1991. Listen to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," one of the most iconic tracks from the album, for an idea of the sound and feel of the radio at the time. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the narrator mean when he says that Marcus is asking for "absolutely nothing and absolutely everything?"
Where have we seen Kurt Cobain before? Why is it remarkable that Will knows who he is and Marcus does not? (This annotation contains an image)
English soccer team and 1991 European Cup champions (This annotation contains an image)
The metaphor between Marcus and a fish serves to
Another region-specific term, this one for "skipping" or "ditching."
Describe how "being a kid" is portrayed in this novel. What does Jack Hornby seem to be saying about youth, adulthood, and growing up?
Will always seems to catch on to things slightly after Marcus does. Is he willfully ignorant, or is his blindness genuine?
In the movie (released in 2002), Will actually introduces Marcus to rap. Follow the link below to learn more about Nirvana's style. Then, using your knowledge of the time period and the text, speculate on why they would make the change from grunge rock to rap for the purpose of the film. http://goo.gl/PgrPyu
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What does Marcus mean when he thinks "He'd done it right"?
Which of the following pairs represent something Ellie has, that the rest don't and something the rest has, that Ellie doesn't -respectively?
This scene literally represents Ellie carrying Marcus from one phase of his life to another. How is Ellie a more or less suitable companion than Will?
Click the link below to see a scene from Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which loner Charlie finds himself under the wings of similar school outcasts. Watch the video, and compare and contrast Patrick and Ellie, and the way they befriend Charlie and Marcus.http://goo.gl/MOzTMq
This is an example of understatement. Think about how Will's speech- full of verbal irony, understatement, and other witticisms, communicates both more and less than Marcus's speech does.
Will has developed several important principles in his life. Which of the following does this decision directly violate?
Which of the following best describes the shift in the dynamic between Will and Marcus at this moment?
All of the crazy things Will associates with Christmas at Marcus's house- wishbones, Christmas carols, movies, and roasted nuts- are actually fairly reasonable, traditional things to find at a family holiday. (This annotation contains an image)
Utilize the "define" feature, then write your own original sentence using the word "contemptible."
The link below is to the film's version of Marcus's gift-opening. Compare and contrast the way in which the two media treat Marcus's gifts, and Will's reaction.http://goo.gl/Vb9y15
The Super Nintendo was released in 1991. (This annotation contains an image)
What is a more likely explanation for Will refusing to wear the crown from his cracker (see link for image)? http://goo.gl/DLSu65
The Christmas pudding, which an American would likely identify as more of a molten cake, traditionally has one silver piece in it, said to bring luck to the person who finds it. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Marcus laugh at his mother's comment?
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To which of the following themes does this observation most closely align?
How does Lindsey's mum's ignorance affect the mood of the Christmas episodes?
Do you think Suzie's outburst was appropriate?
Revisit the Christmas clip, linked again here. This time, comment on the ways in which the film captures the network of tension and relationships in the room.http://goo.gl/Vb9y15
Which of the following events from this chapter indicates that Will is maturing?
Which of the following facts does not suggest that we are nearing the climax of this novel?
It's possible that Will watches entirely too much television. (This annotation contains an image)
In a moment, you'll see the film's version of this scene. In it, Will and Rachel discuss rap rather than rock. Does this affect your ideas about why the film would use one rather than the other?
Watch the clip below, and comment on the ways the film-makers created the mood in this scene. How does it compare to the mood when you are reading it?http://goo.gl/9rv7p7
It would seem Rachel would like Ali's father to be as far away as possible. (This annotation contains an image)
Still fairly novel at the time, The Simpson's debuted in its current format in 1989 and is the longest running scripted American prime time series. (This annotation contains an image)
Using the "define" feature, write an original sentence with the word "cretin" in it.
Pay attention to some of the parallels that happen on New Years Eve.
How does this line fit in with what we know about Ellie? Is she posturing, or is she getting at something deeper?
In the United States, only about 10-15% of divorced fathers have sole custody of their children.
In this context, "snogging" can best be replaced with which of the following expressions or terms?
What do you think of this idea? Do rules make things more or less complicated?
To what major life event is this an allusion?
The Angel is a major retail and commercial area in London. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is not evident from Will's fantasies about Rachel?
The standard unit of currency in the UK, the pound is currently worth about $1.66 USD. (This annotation contains an image)
The links below are to images of Siouxsie and the Roadrunner, respectively. After viewing the pictures, comment on the extent to which this comparison matches your impression of Ellie. http://goo.gl/hC7ydKhttp://goo.gl/frVIGa
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In your own words, explain why Rachel's slip in calling Marcus Mark has such a huge impact on Will.
Ryan Giggs, pictured in his Manchester United jersey (This annotation contains an image)
For the first time in this text, Will is the one who is
Which of the following real-world complexes is most strongly suggested by Ali's outburst?
A stone is a unit of body weight used in Great Britain and Ireland.
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How do Marcus's words set him apart from the adults in this scene?
Marcus is trying to use the things he's seen Will do to win Ellie. Do you think that's a good idea?
In this moment, Ellie is most analogous to
Jean-Claude Van Damme is a Belgian martial artist and actor. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe why lying about one's identity is a "short-term strategy." How has it ended for Will before?
Rachel grows cold with Will. What would you say to her in Will's shoes? Do you think he does a good job explaining himself in the following pages?
Which of the following people could best be described as a fantasist?
Think about the ways lies and truths interplay throughout this novel. Would you have saved yourself by telling the truth in this scenario?
How does the circular structure of Will's journey contribute to the novel's theme of family and personal connection?
American readers will likely identify crumpets as English muffins. (This annotation contains an image)
In your own words, explain Marcus's understanding of friends and their roles. Is he mistaken in assuming that someone should take over?
Using the "define" feature, use "obtuse" in an original sentence.
Marcus and Will have entered blurry territory navigating the distinction between figures of friendship, leadership, and authority.
This line is an example of
Think about the way we as a culture process celebrity death. Do we treat it the same way we treat deaths of "real people?"
By this assessment, can Will and Marcus ever truly be friends? Why or why not?
What do you think of Will's assessment of his own ability to help Fiona? Is he underestimating himself?
How is this relationship proving to be different from Will's other encounters in this book?
All of the following events from the text are clear indicators of Marcus's devotion to Will except
What little things do you look forward to each day, week, year? Do you agree with Rachel's assessment of "the point?"
Who initiates the encounter?
Which of the following marks a shift in the narration of the text?
Fiona referring to home projects as "Scrabble" words is a pretty strong indicator that she doesn't typically try them.
In your own words, summarize why Marcus is so disgusted by his father.
King's Cross is a major railway station in London. Consequently, it is where Harry Potter began his journey to Hogwarts!
The use of the archetypical literary journey might be said to demonstrate any of the following except
Read below for more information on this important day in music history. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Marcus trying to do?
How does this compare to the reaction you would expect from Ellie?
How does the guided missile metaphor contribute to our understanding of Marcus's situation?
One of the most bizarre relationships in the novel is between Will and Fiona. What are they to each other? Do you think they can ever be friends?
Which of the following details from this chapter most definitely places it in a historical setting other than our own?
Using evidence from the text, outline the ways in which Will has changed, and evaluate the extent to which he is "better off." Do you think his life was better before or after undergoing these changes? Explain.
This is a major change from the dynamic earlier in the text, when Marcus was the one "stuck" in the many unpopular things about himself.
Will seems to think Ellie will have a stronger reaction than she hinted at. Why might that be a major problem? (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Will's intuition about Marcus and Ellie so important?
What effect does this little jump back in time from the previous chapter have on our understanding of the plot?
Marcus makes an important revelation about the difference between angst and pain. Do you think Ellie has anything to be truly upset about?
Marcus most likely feels sick because
This is also another word for pharmacist.
Ellie takes the moral opposition to the content in the window, when she herself wears a sweat shirt with Cobain's face on it. Where do you think the line is when it comes to commercializing celebrity death? What about on social media in today's world? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following dynamics is most like that between Ellie and the police?
In your own words, articulate what it is about Clive that makes Marcus so angry.
Do you agree that the story is beginning to feel like a never-ending play? This whole sequence is so different from the preceding chapters, it's hard to tell where it fits in. Why do you think this happens?
This paragraph is based on a
Which of the following best describes Marcus's role in the lives of the adults around him?
Petrol is the UK term for gasoline. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of person do you think Ellie was expecting to see? Why is it important that she looks so much like Ellie?
Based on this statement, the reader can infer that
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How does Nick Hornby use Will's thoughts and actions to develop theme over the course of the novel? How does it all culminate in this scene?
There might be something to Marcus's idea that Clive and Lindsey are scared of London. What differences can you think of between big cities and small towns? Does one ever fear the other? (This annotation contains an image)
Whom has Marcus decided to deny parenting rights when it comes to the little things in his life?
Rizlas are a brand of rolling papers and tubes for cigarettes. (This annotation contains an image)
Marcus's idea about pyramids and support is best articulated by which of the following themes?
What do the thoughts and actions of Marcus and Will each reveal about the other? Why are the alternating perspectives so important in this process?
The British Museum, linked below, is a vast collection of human artifacts. With all the life that Will and Marcus witness first hand, it seems ironic that they would try to learn more in a museum. (This annotation contains a link)
The use of the word "sagely" in this context makes the two boys seem
Marcus is now fully immersed in the world of grunge rock and punk culture. (This annotation contains an image)