Michelle and Anne have been best friends since childhood, although they are very different. Michelle is very shy; her one unusual skill being that she is a beautiful singer, a skill that comes from her father, one her mother chose at a sperm bank because of his musical ability and intelligence. Anne is a typical teenager who befriends Terri, a teenager more like herself, outgoing and interested in boys.
Over spring break, they go to Cancun; only two girls will return from this trip. Anne and Michelle meet Anders, an interesting European, who takes them on a tour of the Mayan ruin of Chichen Itza. Michelle’s shy nature opens up at the top of the beautiful ruin, and she connects strongly with Anders, who she views as a father figure.
But, Anne is creeped out by his talk of Mayan culture, all the death, rebirth and violence. Instead of going back to the hotel with Anders, Anne insists they go back with three boys she has just met, who say they are from Illinois as well.
This choice thrusts Michelle into the wilds of the Yucatan jungle, with dreams of the feathered Mayan god, Quetzalcoatl and Anne back in the States regretting her decision about Anders.
Michelle and Anne seem to be very different, but they also have some important similarities. What are they? What place does Terri take in their friendship? What does she represent to Anne?
The novel is replete with beautiful and terrifying descriptions of ancient Mayan culture. In what ways does this history repeat itself in the story of Michelle? What do you think of Ander’s descriptions of Mayan history? Would you react like Anne or Michelle to these stories? Why?
An important theme of the novel centers on Michelle’s absent father and how this affects Michelle. What do you think about her mother’s decision to go to a sperm bank? How does it affect Michelle as a child and as a teenager?
Ander’s character is intriguing and mysterious and he has a powerful effect on Michelle. Discuss how Michelle reacts to him. Why does this anger Anne so much? How does Anders prove himself as a trustworthy person? What role do you think he will play in Michelle’s life when he comes to stay in Illinois after Michelle has been found? Describe if you think that Ander is an impediment or helpful to her recovery.
Anne’s angry speech to Michelle on the way back to the hotel is brutally honest, but also indicates problems in their friendship. What are these problems? How do Michelle’s unsolved issues regarding her father affect her friendship with Anne?
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* Housekeeping in a Dream (1995)
* Fire & Flower (1998)
* What It Wasn’t (2002)
* Dance and Disappear (2002)
* Gardening in the Dark (2004)
* The Bad Teacher (2005)
* Lilies Without (2007)
* Suspicious River (1997)
* White Bird in a Blizzard (1999)
* The Life Before Her Eyes (2002)
* Boy Heaven (2007)
* Be Mine (2007)
* Feathered (2008)