Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Describe J. What makes him a dynamic character?
Is he the type of person you would want to
befriend? Why or why not?
- How would you describe J's family? Are they in
any way similar to your own? If so, in what ways?
- In I Am J, fear both motivates and incapacitates
J. Consider how he deals with his fears. In what
ways does he acknowledge them? Is he able to
turn to others for help? What are the consequences
of his reactions?
- What are your earliest impressions of J's best
friend, Melissa? Do you find her to be a good
friend? Using textual examples, support
- How would you characterize the relationship
between J and Melissa, and how does it change
over the course of the novel?
- Explain the significance of the title, I Am J. In what
ways does it accurately describe the events and
relationships portrayed in the novel?
- After being attacked on the subway, J vows to
become a "genuine freak." Coupled with the
constant misunderstandings of his sexuality,
how does this experience serve as a catalyst that
drives J to reinvent himself?
- J's mother tells him, "You can learn to love
the life you're handed." Do you agree with her
assessment? Why or why not?
- In what ways is J's life similar to Melissa's?
How are they different? What are some of the
unique challenges faced by each of them? Do you
think one has a significantly easier life? Explain
- J uses his photography to help make Melissa
better understand him. Consider the photograph
he stages to share with her; how is this image
symbolic of who he is?
- Compare the parent/child relationships in the
story: J and his mother, J and his father, and
Melissa and her mother. To what extent are the
relationships of these characters shaped by the
world around them? To what extent do their
relationships shape that world?
- After a relaxed portrait session with his parents,
J thinks, "I want to remember them like this."
To what extent do you think J understands how
the bond between he and his parents will be
- In your opinion, does J's new school provide
him the support he needs? What are the
advantages and disadvantages to attending a
- Describe J's relationship with Blue; in what ways
are his actions "typical" of a player in a high
school romance? What does he ultimately learn
from this failed relationship?
- Throughout the novel, readers witness the complexities
of the various relationships among the
characters. Consider whose relationship seemed
most similar to one of your own personal relationships.
What about it reminded you of your
- Consider the novel's cover. In what ways is the
image symbolic of the events that transpire
throughout the course of the book?
- Blue tells J, "You've probably never wanted to
be anything different than what you are." Given
that readers fully understand the irony of her
statement, why might Blue have such an
opinion of J?
- J's obsession with getting on "T" is indicative of
his emotional state; do you think he will be satisfied
in the end? Why or why not?
- Consider Melissa's dancing, Blue's painting,
and Jay's photography. What role does art play
in the lives of each of these characters? In what
ways does it allow them to express their vision of
- Using the phrase, "This is a story about
supply five words to describe I Am J. Explain
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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.