Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Discuss the relationships between storytelling, lies, and magic
in Vaclav & Lena. How do these concepts interact in the novel's
- Lena's disappearance is a sore point between Vaclav and
Rasia. Do you think Rasia made the right choice by remaining
silent about it?
- Early in the book, Vaclav has a tremendous amount of confidence
in himself and in his future as a magician. Do you think
this is merely naïveté, or is it a necessary attribute for someone
to make their dreams come true?
- Discuss the challenges of immigration in the book. How does
language play a role in assimilation for Vaclav and Lena? How
does Rasia try to connect with her Americanized son?
- Rasia and her husband, Oleg, seem to have had very different
experiences in immigrating to America. What factors have contributed
to this difference in their experience?
- How would you describe the dynamics of Vaclav and Lena's
relationship at the start of the novel? How do those dynamics
shift when Lena becomes friends with the popular crowd and
Vaclav volunteers to do her homework for her? How do they
shift again when Vaclav and Lena reconnect as teenagers?
- Discuss the novel's settings. How does the Russian émigré
community of Brighton Beach have an effect on Vaclav and
Lena? How does the fantastical world of Coney Island?
- How would you describe the nature of Rasia's relationship
- In reporting Lena's situation to the authorities, is Rasia acting
solely in Lena's best interest, or might she be acting to protect
- Why do you think Vaclav, at seventeen, resists sex with his
- Discuss the chapter headings. How do they interact with the
rest of the text?
- How does Lena's trauma manifest itself when she is a child?
A teenager? Do you think her wounds can be healed?
- Ekaterina tells Vaclav that she did the best she could for
Lena. Do you think this is true?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Dial Press.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.