DRAWING AMANDA is set in the under-parented, high-expectation world of a Manhattan international prep school. Fourteen-year-old Inky Kahn, still smarting from the death of his father, wants his artwork seen and thinks he’s found his outlet by contributing to a computer game in development. Inky bonds with the game’s developer and snares a drawing assignment, for which he uses Amanda, his secret crush, as a model.
Inky and his cybergeek pal, Rungs, discover Amanda’s been beta-testing the game – and has agreed to meet the developer, who, because of the game’s artwork, she mistakenly thinks is Inky. When the guys’ sleuthing uncovers the developer’s past arrest for molesting a teenage girl, they know they have to stop Amanda’s rendezvous.
But first Inky has to let go of his dream of having his artwork used – and admit to Amanda that he spied on her – even while focusing on his school project about the Brazilian Indian tribe his father was to film on his fatal trip. Inky feels like he’s completing his father’s unfinished business. He includes a cryptic message for Amanda when he presents his project at school. She realizes Inky is right about the developer.
Inky, Amanda and Rungs then craft a plan to use Inky’s art to trap the creep before he ensnares anyone else.
- Inky wants nothing more than to have his artwork used in the Megaland game. He is so focused on his goal that he is blinded to the clues (the live chat with the developer and the lameness of the game) that all is not right with the game. Have you ever been so focused on your own goals and desires that you misread a situation?
- Inky and his mother are estranged in part because he can’t accept that she’s moving on from her grief. Principal Harooni and Hawk both urge Inky to do so as well. “Get over it, Artboy,” Hawk says. What keeps Inky from being able to move on?
- Amanda has lived in several countries, and while she does speak English, she is challenged by English idioms. Can you think of some phrases and expression that would be challenging for a non-native speaker? Have you struggled with idioms when learning another language? Which ones?
- Rungs, a Buddhist, is offended when his teacher shows him the soles of his feet. During an assembly, he ticks off some other cultural taboos. Can you think of others? Was Rungs right to play a prank on his teacher to get revenge?
- Inky and Hawk have both lost parents, but Inky sees little similarity in their experiences – Inky’s father died in a sudden accident; Hawk’s mother died after a prolonged illness. In what ways do you think their circumstances are the same or are different?
- When Inky tells Woody about his guilt over his father’s death, he shares something he hasn’t been able to share with others. Have you ever shared something with a stranger you hadn’t told friends or family? Why?
- Amanda’s report focuses on the different cliques in the school. It is human nature to bond over shared interests or experiences, but sometimes cliques can be exclusionary. What is it like in your school? What are the shared traits of the group you identify with?
- Rungs discovers that Woody has gone to great pains to disguise his identity. We hear more and more stories about people who have been “catfished” by people who create fake online identities. Can you think of ways you might spot someone who is not who they say they are?
- Both Inky and Amanda are different in Megaland than they are at school. How close to the “real” you are you online? Do you behave differently on Facebook or Snapchat than you do in person? How? Are there things you don’t post because of what others might think? How do you think your friends perceive the online you?
- What is “safe” in a digital world? How much information about you is “out there”? What could someone know about you from easily accessible information? Could they figure out where you go to school? Who your friends are? What days you are at certain locations? Things to say to you to get you to trust them?
- Inky’s report was about an Indian tribe that lives in isolation from the modern world. Why should we care about this small group of people? Are there things we can learn from them?
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