Teaching & Discussion Guide written by Spring Lea Henry, library consultant
and former editor of YAttitudes. Provided by Mirrorstone Books
Some parents try to choose your career or what college you’re going to attend, but what if your parents suddenly wanted you to decide to become an immortal creature? This is just the problem with which sixteen-year-old Mina is faced in Kimberly Pauley’s novel, Sucks to Be Me. Mina has always known her parents were vampires, but now, they suddenly want her to consider it as a lifestyle for herself because of pressure from the greater vampire community. As a result, she is now required to attend vampire lessons after school to figure out if the immortal life is the one for her. In addition to juggling school, friends, and trying to get a date to prom with Nathan, now Mina is faced with keeping a secret from her best friend for the first time ever, avoiding raising the wrath of the Vampire Council, and having to answer some tough questions about the rest of her life…which could be forever if she decides to turn!
About the Book
Sucks to Be Me is a book that marries the best elements of teen fiction with a vampire storyline. Mina, though facing an extraordinary situation, sounds like a typical teenager with average problems. She worries about what to wear, where to sit in the lunchroom, getting invited to hang with the cool crowd, and how to avoid detention for her sassy attitude. Though tackling a sophisticated problem that will affect the rest of her life, her language is unsophisticated and reads as if she were speaking directly to the reader. Her words will be accessible to readers at many levels and should be a big draw for the reluctant reader.
Secrets are a big part of the storyline as Mina cannot share her family’s vampiric ways with even her best friend. Mina’s family also has been withholding critical information from her, which complicates her decision process. Sucks to Be Me raises some good talking points about the importance of clear communication and when sharing a secret can help make life less complicated for all involved.
There’s a lot of fodder in this book for discussions of substance about life choices and the importance of well-thought out decisions. Mina uses a pro/con list in her decision process, which could introduce the tool to teens as they face their own life choices. Mina is a strong female who isn’t afraid to take her destiny in her own hands, and in the end, she knows that whatever she decides to do with her life, it will be what’s best for her and not what other people want her to do. This leaves room for discussion about the myriad influences in one’s life, such as parents, friends, and authority figures and just how much weight each one should have.
Get the students excited about this title by first talking about vampires. Discuss some of the common vampire myths based on books they’ve read and movies they’ve seen. More than just the myths, talk about how realistic they are and which ones might actually be feasible aspects of a person in a modern society. Encourage logical thinking as a way to debunk common myths, such as the fact that pretty much anyone would die from a stake to the heart.
After this discussion, introduce the topic of life choices to the students and have them discuss what kinds of choices are permanent and which are temporary. A good place to start might be with physical changes such as dying one’s hair vs. getting a tattoo or plastic surgery. Other choices to discuss might include life plans, such as marriage, college, or which career to pursue. Talk about which ones, such as having a child, can never be reversed and which ones, such as a career, might be changed if it’s not working out. Also be sure to include the importance of one’s peers, parents, and other family members in these decisions. Have the students talk about which decisions merit input from which of these groups of people: Does Mom get a say in the college but not the tattoo? and so on.
Discuss the following:
- Mina went through a lengthy and thorough decision process to decide to become a vampire. Do you agree or disagree with Mina’s final decision and why? Were there some aspects that she overlooked?
- Part of Mina’s decision was creating a list of the pros and cons of being immortal. This is a very common way of dealing with difficult decisions. Would you ever consider becoming a vampire?
- What are your pros and cons?
- Kimberly Pauley puts forth an interesting theory that vampires might be living among us, given that many of the traditional myths, such as turning to dust in the sunlight, do not apply to her version of the creatures. Do you believe it is possible for vampires to live among as as Pauley suggests? Who or why not?
- Vampires are just one of many mythical beings that have inspired countless stories. What other mythical beings would you consider becoming? What would be the pros and cons of that transformation?
- Mina is forced to keep a big secret from her best friend, just as other people in her life have kept critical information from her. In the end, clear communication is what helps everyone improve their lives. Do you think there are any secrets that are better kept? Are there some secrets you would share with friends but not your parents and vice-versa? Can keeping a secret ever hurt someone?
History & Litertaure
Have students research the mythological, literary, and historical roots of vampires. Choose one of the myths discussed in the book and explore its roots. Or choose one of the historical figures mentioned in the book, such as Vlad the Impaler and investigate the true story behind it. Have students compile what they learn in a Myth/Truth list. Discuss what social or cultural influences might have created the vampire mythology. What does this mythology continue to be popular today?
Have the students imagine that they have decided to become a vampire and speculate what life might be like in 200 years. Ask them to use a diary format or write a short story that describes a typical day in their life. Encourage them to think about what technology might be like, discuss how many times they have had to relocate, what sort of friends and family they might have, and what life is like in whatever country they have chosen for their current home.
Discuss various creatures who exhibit vampire-like abilities and traits that already exist in nature. Examples might include nocturnal animals, such as hedgehogs and owls; blind animals or ones who cannot tolerate light, or creatures such as mosquitoes who feed on the blood of other animals. Have the students speculate how these traits might contribute to a person being labeled a vampire if they were to appear in humans.
Vampires are supposed to have perfect vision. This would allow them to see things in greater detail than others around them, especially if they are one of the special ones who have x-ray vision, as was suggested in the book. Talk about various art forms that might have sprung from perfect vision, such as cubism, which is seeing all sides of an object at once; photorealism, in which the artist attempts to make the subject appear as lifelike as possible; or three-dimensional forms, such as sculpture, that would allow the artist to try and recreate a real-life object.