I hope that book clubs and classes discussing my books will find the below questions and exercises both helpful and inspirational. Thank you so much to all the readers who helped me compile these!
Please note, these questions are filled with spoilers!
Discussion Questions for CINDER
1. What parallels can you draw between CINDER and the Cinderella fairy tale? What is the symbolism behind the glass slipper, the pumpkin carriage, the ball? Is there a fairy godmother in CINDER, and if so, who is it?
2. What does it mean to be human? Is it primarily physiological? Cultural? Emotional? What do you think could have led to cyborgs being perceived as less than human in Cinder’s world? What about Lunars, who evolved from a human colony? What real-world parallels can you draw between the discrimination against cyborgs and Lunars to that of race, disability, and class?
3. Cinder has many unique abilities—the ability to detect lies, to download information directly into her head, to overlay her eyesight with helpful diagrams, etc. What kinds of abilities might we want to develop from future technology? What cyborg skill would you like to have today?
4. In Cinder’s future, Earth has been conglomerated into six countries who have formed an alliance called the Earthen Union. Though Cinder lives in Asia (the Eastern Commonwealth), there is much evidence of western influence (ex., the ball gowns that are made for Peony and Pearl). Do you think this mixing of cultures is a believable result of the Earthen Union? How do you foresee cultures changing (or not) as a result of the increased communication and travel we have access to today?
5. Propaganda is used as a political tool both by Luna (ex., Sybil’s claim that the history of peace on Luna is a result of the totalitarian regime) and the Eastern Commonwealth (ex., being selected as a cyborg draft subject is an “honor”). When is it justified for a government or institution to use propaganda? When should the people of a society question what information they’re given?
6. Dr. Erland compares the arrival of Lunars and the spread of letumosis to rats carrying the bubonic plague to Europe and the Spanish conquistadors bringing smallpox to the Native Americans. Do you think these are accurate comparisons? Why or why not?
7. What is the importance of beauty (real or deceptive) in Cinder’s world? Compare the perceived beauty and/or ugliness of Queen Levana and Cinder and how this has effected how they’re treated by those around them. How is this similar or different from the way beauty is treated today?
8. In chapter 24, Prince Kai asks Cinder, “Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?” Both Kai and Cinder face decisions that could result in sacrificing their own lives for what they perceive as a greater good. Do you believe that a person is obligated to sacrifice themselves for the sake of many? How does self-sacrifice compare to the imposed sacrifices made by cyborg draft subjects?
9. Was it right for Cinder to try to deliver the antidote to Peony first, even though there were others who also needed it? Was it right for Dr. Erland to offer her first access to the antidote? What would you have done in either situation?
10. Marissa Meyer got the idea for implanted ID chips when she saw a religious propaganda flier warning people against imbedded computer chips that would signal the coming of the apocalypse. In Cinder’s world, ID chips are so necessary to everyday life that to be without one is to stop existing on some level. What would be some of the benefits of having such an ID chip implanted in your body? What are some potential dangers?
11. What are your thoughts on Kai’s reaction when he discovered that Cinder is both a cyborg and a Lunar? How do you think he would have reacted if Cinder had told him the truth earlier in the book? Can you speculate how his feelings might change (toward Cinder, Lunars, or the cyborg draft) after the shock has worn off?
12. Each book in The Lunar Chronicles will be inspired by a different fairy tale. Can you spot references to any tales besides Cinderella within CINDER?
Writing Exercises for CINDER
1. Imagine Cinder’s life at home with her stepmother, Adri, and her two stepsisters. Write a scene from the point-of-view of Cinder or one of her stepsisters showing all of them interacting at home: over dinner, in the morning, getting ready for the ball.
2. Make up a character (not in the book) to interact with either Cinder or Prince Kai. Write a brief scene in which your character meets and tries to warn one of these characters that they are in danger from the Lunars.
3. You are a guest at the ball. Write about what happens between Cinder and Prince Kai from your point of view.
Visual Arts Exercises for CINDER
1. The cover art for CINDER depicts a female leg with cyborg parts and a red shoe. Draw or paint an alternate cover showing Cinder and any of the main characters: Iko, Prince Kai, Adri, Cinder’s stepsisters, or Queen Levana.
2. Draw or paint a portrait of Cinder with her cyborg parts, either in her mechanic’s garb, or at the ball.
3. The android Iko is important to Cinder. Draw or paint her. Or, draw/paint the android you’d like to have in your life!
Discussion Questions for SCARLET
1. How is Scarlet similar to the story of Little Red Riding Hood? How is it different?
2. In an early chapter, Scarlet defends Cinder from the rude customers at the tavern, and we later learn that Scarlet’s open-mindedness toward Lunars was largely influenced by her grandmother’s attitudes. When it comes to prejudices, do you think people are more influenced by their close friends and relatives, or by society at large? Can you think of any real-world prejudices that are similar to that between the Earthens and the Lunars?
3. Imagine you were Scarlet and your grandmother was missing. Would you have followed Wolf when he offered to help you? If not, what would you have done instead?
4. What do you think was Wolf’s motivation for helping Scarlet—both when he agreed to help her find her grandmother, and later when he gave her the chip to unlock her prison door? In the beginning, he tells Scarlet that he escaped from his life as a “Loyal Soldier to the Order of the Pack.” Do you think he was truly on the run from his life as a Lunar soldier, or was this only a ruse to earn Scarlet’s trust?
5. By escaping from prison, Cinder angered Queen Levana and inadvertently triggered the Lunar attacks. Was she right to escape after Kai had struck a bargain with Queen Levana, trading Cinder’s freedom for ongoing peace? What would you have done in Cinder’s situation? What would you have done in Kai’s?
6. In addition to escaping from prison herself, Cinder aids in the escape of Carswell Thorne—a convicted thief. Do you think she made the right decision in letting him come with her, or should she have left him in the prison cell? What kind of relationship do you think Cinder and Thorne have developed by the end of the book? Do you think Thorne could become romantic competition for Kai?
7. Iko returns in Scarlet, not as an android, but as the spaceship’s control system. Why do you think it was so important for Cinder to find a way to revive her? Do you have any hopes or predictions for what might become of Iko in the rest of the series?
8. Cinder struggles a lot with her Lunar powers and determining when it is morally right for her to use them. She learns quickly that using her powers can both help and hurt the people around her. Can you think of any situations in which it would be okay—even ethical—for someone to use brainwashing or mind control on another human being? If Lunars were to become integrated into human society, what sorts of laws might be put in place to prevent the misuse of their powers? How might those laws be enforced?
9. In Marissa Meyer’s short story The Queen’s Army, we’re given a look into the creation of the werewolf soldiers who are conscripted into the Lunar army as children. Children have been used as soldiers throughout history, and it is still happening today. Research one conflict in which a government employed the use of child soldiers. How did they become involved in the fighting? What happened to them when the conflict was over?
10. One of the great ethical debates of modern science is whether or not genetic engineering (altering the DNA of living organisms) should be performed on humans. On Luna, scientists modified the DNA of children in order to turn them into wolf hybrids. Do you think it is right to modify a person’s DNA? Can you think of any situations in which genetic engineering would be beneficial to a person or a society? When might it be detrimental?
11. Think about the ruins of the Musée du Louvre and the Palais Garnier (the opera house) in Paris. Why do you think these national sites weren’t restored after World War IV? Are there any historical buildings or landmarks in your area that have fallen into disrepair, and do you feel it’s important for society to preserve these sites? Why or why not?
12. In many versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Little Red and her grandmother are ultimately rescued from the wolf by a woodsman or lumberjack. Are there any characters in Scarlet that you think parallel this role, and how so?
13. How are Cinder and Scarlet similar to each other? How are they different? Do you feel that either of them would make a good role model for young women, and why or why not?