Undercard: A Reader's Guide
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Questions For Discussion. Please note there are spoilers in the questions!
- Is Antoine the hero or villain in this story? How is a classic revenge tale, of an innocent person terribly wronged who then attempts to set things right, subverted in Undercard?
- Tyron commits violence for the state abroad, and then is asked to protest state violence when back home. What conflicts does this create for Tyron? How does his past relationship with Keenan further complicate matters?
- Keenan is an adulterer and the killer of an unarmed young man. Is there any relation between the two? How does Keenan’s personal life affect his actions as a police officer? How do his attempts to change his personal life have an impact on the rest of his actions?
- Naomi is loved at different times by Antoine, Keenan, and Tyron. Why does she choose not to be in a romantic relationship with any of them at the end of the book? How has she changed since the start?
- At one point, the author thought of making Norman Bashinsky the central character of the novel instead of the principal characters of Antoine, Keenan, Naomi, and Tyron. In its finished form, Bashinsky barely appears in the novel, and yet he has a major impact on the lives of all the characters. Consider his role and why he is given such weight despite his brief appearance in the story.
- Sports play a major role in the novel. Naomi is a basketball player, Keenan a tennis player, Tyron a decathlete, and Antoine a boxer. Consider how each character’s primary sport, and the culture of that sport, helped to shape who they are.
- All four principal characters question their role in society and what type of person they should be. Is this a reflection of the times or a universal theme of people finding their place in the world? Discuss the characters’ different attempts to navigate and contribute to the world around them.
- Why did Tyron move in with Keenan’s family without Antoine? Was this a terrible betrayal or a necessary decision? Why did Antoine not pursue revenge on Tyron for this?
- Skills development and goal acquisition are explored through the sports careers of the four main characters. Describe the processes each take to achieve their goals. Why was Antoine able to rise the highest in sports out of the four?
- Antoine’s final plan is to fight for the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. Since the book’s release there has been major upheaval in both countries. How are these global incidents connected to the urban-scale issues and personal conflicts presented in Undercard?
- Las Vegas is known as a party city and a tourist destination. Does Undercard offer a different image of the city? Are the issues presented in Las Vegas specific to that city or reflective of general urban conditions?
- When writing the book, the author worried that tackling issues he was not directly affected by might offend some people. What is an author’s role in these changing times? What is appropriate and what is inappropriate? How should sensitive subject matter be broached?
- The boxing event and the protest march are the two events that hem in each section of the book. During both, violent action takes place in the background. Examine how the large-scale set pieces are contrasted with the intimate action scenes.
- Time is a major factor in Undercard. The book takes place over 24 hours, and is divided into AM and PM. Each chapter number corresponds to the hour the chapter is leading up to, and each scene has a time stamp for its heading. Furthermore, the earliest flashback, which sets the story in motion, takes place 20 years before the present-day story, and it has been over a decade since the principal characters were all in close contact. Discuss how time is used to create tension and suspense and how it impacts the characters’ growth and changing relationships.
The Undercard Challenge … coming soon!