S: What I Was
FC: What I Was By: Meg Rosoff
1: To begin.. | I would like to thank my group members for their contribution and participation throughout my discussion. I enjoyed hearing everyones own perception of the questions I posed, and the questions that were asked in return. Often unique and individualized, I learned more from this group discussion than I ever thought.... Without the participation there would be no discussion, so I thank you!
5: Initial thoughts: a mystery? a dream? horror? uneffective? calm? whimsical?
6: Overall Impressions
7: I feel once the book was read and reflected on, each group member was shocked in some way or another. The consensus on the cover was everyone was unclear of the story inside. During Hilary's adventures to see Finn, it seems everyone wasn't sure of how the book was going to carry on especially because some felt the visits to Finn were repetitive. But why does Hilary keep returning to Finn? What does Hilary recieve from the lack of communication other than an escape from school? I feel these questions were constantly pondered throughout the novel. Constantly analyzing, we all have our own beleifs but a common belief was Hilary admired the free lifestyle Finn had. A comment that was made is the "constant mystery and wonder about what was going to happen to this "boy"" is a feeling I beleive we all had while reading this book. The ending suprised everyone. When Finn was seen bleeding, the thought of menstrating didn't cross anyones mind. Such a twist to the novel to read how Finn took Hilarys' name. It seems once the final pages begin to happen with Finns' illness, we were all curious as to how the book was going to end.
8: Why aren't we introduced to the main characters name until the ending? Why do you think Hilary doesn't fit in at school? What makes him different than the rest of his peers? If Hilary would've fit in at school do you feel he would have suceeded?
9: Unimportant, Meaningless, Nameless. These three words were used in our discussion and I feel they describe everyones beliefs on why his name is withheld until near the ending. Holding his name adds mystery throughout the book. In our discussion it was said Hilary didn't have an identiy with anything, he felt constantly unsuccessful but being with Finn gave him an identity and something to look forward to. When we finally hear Hilary's name is when Hilary and Finn find the hiddenmeaning in their relationship. As Hilary himself is faced with a shock in the story while he learns about Finn, we as readers are also experiencing a shock in regards to learning Hilarys name. | These two questions were very intertwinded in the discusison, and I feel they are very related. Hilary isn't happy with his school life. He has no relationships there, and has experienced constant failure with attending school. Hilary is constantly looking for something else, and he finds this when he is with Finn. He doesn't want to be what his father wants him to become, he wants to find his own meaning in life.
10: Finn and Hilary... Why does Hilary long for Finn and his lifestyle? How do you explain the relationship of Finn and Hilary prior to Finns' illness? What feelings does Finn recieve out of Hilary's visits?
11: It seems everyone beleives that Hilary longs for a place to belong, to feel comfortable, and to be wanted. Finn and Hilary have a connection-something that Hilary lacks when he attends school. Hilary sees Finn as someone who is independent and responsible to no one but himself. Hilary has a desire for Finns lifestyle because it is a lifestyle that Hilary has never had. The issue of Finns' sex was discussed. If society would've known there was a girl living alone would authorities intervened? My group believed because Finn is seen as a boy from the outside that this made it possible for her to live her life the way she was. Hiding her sex also might have lead to the awkard interations Finn and Hilary had. She knew she was a girl but yet must have struggled with her identiy because she keeps it hidden. An important reason for Hilary constantly returming might have been because of Hilarys' constant worry about Finn, this is especially clear when Finn becomes ill. When Hilary continually returns, Finn is given interactions and attention that she has never had.
12: Crossover Fiction- What I Was This is a very important genre in middle school. These books deal with issues students have or might face. The topics discussed in these books could be the only place students are able to learn about or relate to the issues they may be dealing with. In the discussion I feel everyone agrees that crossover fiction is a very relevant and important genre for middle school students to read. Many of many of Meg Rosoffs' books are written about crossover fiction and as teachers it is important to acknoledge these issues. | The following links were provided to further my discussion.
13: Links to learn about the author, other books and more! 1) Discussion of key events in What I Was: http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2008_02_012376.php 2) Interview with Meg Rosoff http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/690e9b74-1ed1-11dc-bc22-ooob5df10621.html 3) Meg Rosoffs' main webpage http://www.megrosoff.co.uh/ 4) Learn more about Meg Rosoff http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth5181CF7D116fo138ACiIg120E844 5) Crossover fiction write up http://www.guradian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/26/booksforchildrenandteenagers1
14: Ending Questions: | How did you feel when you first read Finn was ill? What did you think was happening? When this question was discussed I was quite shocked that I wasn't the only one who didn't first think of Finns' illness as menstrating. The fact that Finn lives in isolation was discussed, she sadly wouldn't of known what was hapening to her. It would be interesting to ask middle school students is they would've realized she was a female prior to the nurse telling Hilary what was happening.
15: I feel everyone found the ending a shock, and even confusing. As readers we are given the main characters first name, which to some was puzzling. Why hadn't we been given his name prior? Why does Finn take Hilarys' name? A point in the discussion was Hilary it thought of a female name which may have been a reason why the author chose it. Although, the book takes place in the 1960's where the name could've been mostly males.. A very interesting name choice by Rosoff to add more mystery to the novel. It was mentioned that after the book was read the cover seemed to make more sense. The whole story revolves around isolation and mystery which is shown from the lone boat. | Twisted Ending:
16: To conclude, I feel this discussion could have went on much longer and much deeper. The underlying meaning as readers we try and understand are so complex. As individuals we all have our own perception of this novel. I feel myself along with my group would agree this novel requires a lot of analyzing and trying to understand what is happening. This book has so many relevant themes to middle school students such as friendship, isolation, rule breaking, family issues, and many others that these students could easily relate. Myself along with other discussion memebers look forward to reading other work by Meg Rosoff.