The Only Way
  1. What type of story (genre) is this? In what ways is it true to life?
  2. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist was grieving for his grandad. Grief tends to bring out many different feelings, such as sadness, anger and loneliness. Have you been in a situation like this? How did you feel? How can we “grieve well” after a loss, and support friends in a similar situation?
  3. The lad in the story is bullied, but he also retaliates. Discuss why you think this happens.
  4. The mob who torch Lily’s home, act out of prejudice. Discuss what prejudice means, and why you think it happens. Do you think every human being has equal value? If so, why do we sometimes find ourselves looking down on others?
  5. And for the first time I fully understood how desperately I wanted things to be different.” What brings the protagonist to this conclusion?
  6. The protagonist and Dave had been good friends. How and why did their friendship break down? What was good about his relationship with Lily? Why do you think it’s important who we spend time with?
  7. The protagonist struggles to talk to his dad when they are in the park. Why was that? Who do you find it hard to talk to? Who do you find it easy to talk to? If there is a difference, why do you think that is? What could you do to help improve your communication with family and friends?
  8. Many young people run away from home every year. What do you think happens to them? What might be a better plan of action? Who would you turn to, if you or a friend had a problem that seemed insolvable?
  9. The protagonist’s life goes from bad to worse, but by the end of the story, he finds hope, and a new way to live. To what extent does he do this on his own and to what extent does he get help? Can that happen in real life?
  10. What did you like most about this book?

Further Reading Group Questions/Study

Aims

To explore a range of emotional literacy themes, e.g., friendships, parents, bereavement, prejudice, bullying, plus spiritual symbolism.

Leaders will need to edit questions according to the group.

First Part: chapters 1-13

Introducing the protagonist

  • How old do you think the protagonist is?
  • What difficulties do he and his family face?
  • Is this a true-to-life type of story?

Changes in friendships/relationships

Chapter 4

  • Why did the protagonist and Dave fall out? Is it difficult to believe/admit bad things about your parents?
  • What effect does stealing and/or lying have on a relationship?
  • In what ways do you think the death of the protagonist’s grandfather affected his behaviour?
  • Why do you think the protagonist’s relationship with Dave changed as much as it did?
  • Have you ever noticed how friendship groups can change as you go through school?
  • How have your friendships changed since you started school?

Miracles or coincidences?

Chapter 5

  • What is a miracle?
  • Do miracles happen?
  • What is the difference between a miracle and a coincidence?

Dave – the ‘bad guy’

Chapter 9

  • Dave is the ‘bad guy’ of the story. Do we like having someone in a story we feel we are allowed to hate? Why do you think that is so?
  • Only Lily takes a different view of Dave. What does she point out?
  • Do you think that everyone has a good side and a bad side?
  • Do you think that some people are always evil or does it happen as a result of the choices we make day by day? Is it ever too late to alter the type of choices we make?

Lily:

Chapters 3, 5, 9, 11, 12, 19

  • Who is Lily?
  • Does Lily always seem to be around when the protagonist needs her?
  • Why do you think the adults believe that Lily is just an imaginary friend?
  • Do you think Lily is real?
  • Could it be said that Lily is like an angel sent to help the protagonist?
  • Do you think that angels exist? Why/why not?

Spiritual symbolism:

Chapters 11, 25

Both the fountain (chapter 11) and the yew tree (chapter 25) are intended to have symbolic/allegorical meanings. What is the author trying to convey here?

To help you, research references in spiritual literature e.g.:

  • Psalm 36:7-9
  • Psalm 32:7
  • Psalm 27:5 (see also verses 1-4)
  • See also Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 16:22; 18:4

We suggest the New International Version translation.

Can you find any other symbolism within the book?

Second Part: chapters 14-27

Parents

Chapter 16

  • In chapter 16, the protagonist’s Dad gives him a good opportunity to open up and talk about his problems. Why do you think he avoids doing that? (Do you think the presence of Dave and Tony in the park influenced the conversation even though they were not in earshot?)
  • Could either the protagonist or his Dad have handled the conversation better?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to talk to your parents? If you told them more, could they help more or would it make things worse?
  • Why do you think parents and teens often find it so hard to have honest, meaningful, deep conversations?

Support networks

Chapter 17

  • What does the protagonist mean by ‘bricking it’?
  • What sort of response does he give the psychologist?
  • What do you think the protagonist’s parents and teachers might have done if he had told them the truth about the problems he was having with Dave?
  • Why do you think he did not tell them?
  • What do you think of the way the school handled the protagonist’s problems?
  • How could they have done it better?

Self-realisation

Chapter 18

The lad comes to identify faults within himself, as well as others. This shows a degree of maturity and self-realisation.

  • An ancient Christian writer once said, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Do you think this is true? Ref: 1 John 1:8 NIV
  • Reflect on Lily’s comments about the water lilies.

Bullying

General Book Observation

  • Why were Dave and his friends bullying the protagonist?
  • What types of bullying can be seen in this story? Discuss ways of dealing with them.
  • What do you think of the way the protagonist handled the bullying?
  • In the second fight episode, how else could he have responded when Dave threw the stone?
  • What would you do if you found yourself in that situation?

Prejudice

Chapters 7, 16, 24, 26, 27

  • Why does the protagonist’s mum want him to stay away from Smith Street?
  • Why are people prejudiced against gypsies or other minority groups?
  • Is it OK for us to hate Dave? If we feel we are allowed to ‘hate’ Dave, is that any different to the mob in chapter 27 feeling they are allowed to hate Lily’s guardian?
  • Why did the mob decide to attack Lily’s house?
  • And for the first time I fully understood how desperately I wanted things to be different.” What brings the protagonist to this conclusion?

Third Part: chapters 28-40

Choices

  • What problems did the protagonist encounter in trying to live rough?
  • He found a way to survive – how? Is it always this easy?
  • Why did he finally leave his ‘den’?
  • Where had Lily hidden?
  • What big decision did the protagonist make after finding Lily? Why? How difficult was that for him?
  • Every day we make choices about what we do, what we think. They can be positive choices or negative ones. Which type do you think keep you happy and healthy? (Proverbs 4:20-23)
  • Research: How many young people run away each year? What happens to many of them?

Fourth Part: chapters 41-55/epilogue

Chapters 41, 42, 46

  • What is different about the protagonist after he returns home?
  • How does he manage to turn things around at school?
  • In what ways did his life improve? Why do you think his parents behaved so differently at the end of the story? Can that happen in real life?
  • In what ways was the protagonist acting differently at the end of the story to the beginning? Why?
  • Identify the main changes that have occurred to some of the key characters during the course of the book.
  • We are not told what becomes of Dave at the end of the story. Discuss the different possibilities. If you were to write an extra chapter covering that part of the story, what would it say? How would it unfold?

Extension Questions

  • In Peter Pan, you have to have a happy thought to be able to fly. Although that is fantasy, is there any sense in which it is metaphorically true?
  • Think of something you can always be positive about.
  • Think of something you are often negative about.
  • How could you look at this differently?
  • The protagonist’s life goes from bad to worse but by the end of the book, things have turned around. What causes this turnabout? To what extent does he do this on his own and to what extent does he get help?
  • Write your own story of someone whose life changed for the better.
  • Which aspects of this story are real to life? Which are symbolic or allegorical?

For teaching materials on emotional literacy themes and spiritual matters take a look at www.soulspace1014.com

We are indebted to Brenda Lord of SoulSpace1014.com for providing these reading group questions.

Share this: