summer you turn sixteen is supposed to be unforgettable. It’s the stuff
of John Hughes movies and classic songs, of heart-stopping kisses and
sudden revelations. But life isn’t always like the movies…
Sean Jackson, sixteen is off to an inauspicious start. His options: take
a landscaping job in Georgia with his father, or stay in his small New
Hampshire hometown, where the only place hiring is the local ice cream
shop. Donning a pink t-shirt to scoop sundaes for tourists and seniors
promises to be a colder, stickier version of hell. Still, he opts to
On his first day at work, Sean meets Becky, a
wickedly funny New York transplant. The store manager, Jay, is eighteen,
effortlessly cool, and according to Becky, “likes” Sean the way Sean’s
starting to like him. But before he can clear a path to the world that’s
waiting, Sean will have to deal with his overprotective mother, his
sweet, popular girlfriend, Lisa, his absentee father, and all his own
uncertainties and budding confusions.
Tender and achingly
funny, this coming-of-age story will resonate with anyone who is—or has
ever been—a teenager, when the only thing you can count on is how little
you really know, and the next glance, or touch, or breathless night can
be the one that changes everything…
“Woodward writes from the
heart—a genuine, honest story about the joys and pains of first love,
and realizing that no one is as alone as it sometimes seems.” –Robin
“A touching story about navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of first love.”--J.H. Trumble
Before Sean meets Becky he has led a very sheltered life growing up in a small town. How might growing up near a city have changed Sean’s life? Would it have made coming out any easier for him?
Sean describes his relationship with Lisa as very tame, which makes it easier for Sean to be Lisa’s boyfriend. How is this relationship mutually beneficial? Is it possible that Lisa suspects that Sean is gay? Why would she stay with him if this were the case?
Sean admits to enjoying kissing with Lisa. How is it possible that he can enjoy kissing a girl while claiming to be gay? Is Sean being hypocritical in his relationship with Lisa?
Sean is surprised when Lisa tells him that Brad, a fellow camp counselor, is gay. Why is this so surprising to Sean? Sean also admits that he’d like to talk to Brad about coming out. What insights could Brad offer to Sean? How would Brad’s coming out story differ from Sean’s. How would it be similar?
Sean says his mother is a school counselor and he’s pretty sure she’ll be accepting of him as gay, but he’s still reluctant to share his sexuality with her. Why would Sean be unsure? What incidents from Sean’s past may have created his doubts? Why is it important for adults or those in positions of authority to speak up when they hear anti-gay language or bullying?
What is Sean’s mother’s initial reaction to his coming out? Does the circumstance of Sean’s announcement affect her reaction? Would she be more accepting if Sean had broken the news in another way? How does she let Sean know that she will be supportive?
Why does Sean have such a hard time coming out to his father? What does his father do or say that keeps Sean from opening up? Does the fact that Sean’s father lives Georgia affect Sean’s willingness to come out to him? Does distance make staying in the closet easier?
Why is Sean’s relationship with his father so difficult? Why is it hard for them to communicate? Does Sean feel his father abandoned him by moving to Georgia? If so, why isn’t he happier for his dad to show up in Bell Cove? How does Sean’s father’s actions show his true feelings for his son
Becky gives Sean “Gay Culture 101,” teaching him about gay movies, clothing, and music. Why wouldn’t Sean have discovered these on his own? Why does Sean need someone like Becky to help him experience gay culture when he has the resources of the Internet available to him? Why, do you think, is Sean so sheltered? Is it by choice or by circumstance?
Why does Sean fall for Jay so quickly? Even though she encouraged Sean to pursue Jay, Becky also warns Sean to take things slowly. Why does she give Sean this advice? Did Becky see Jay’s betrayal coming? What does Jay do that would make Becky suspicious? What warning signs did Sean have that may have saved him from heartbreak?
Sean admires one of Jo Anne’s paintings of Bell Cove, and says that “for the first time that I can remember, I find myself wanting to see more of Bell Cove.” (194) What about the painting intrigues him? How has the summer changed Sean’s attitude towards Bell Cove? Jo Anne then shows Sean a painting from her first apartment in New York City and tells him “that sometimes you need to look beyond the surface to find what you’re looking for.” How does that apply to Sean’s life in Bell Cove? How does it apply to his life as a gay man?
Sean says he thought he was the only gay person in Bell Cove, but he discovers this isn’t so. How many gay people does Sean meet? Are they all surprises to him? How do you think these discoveries will change Sean’s feelings towards his hometown? How important is it for gay youth to be able to see themselves in their surroundings? Why are events like Gay Pride important for this purpose?
How will Sean’s life change as he heads back to school after the summer? Do you think he will come out to the rest of the school? What difficulties might he encounter? What resources will he have to rely on?