Discussion Guide for NIL

NIL Discussion Guide for Classroom and Book Club Use

For classroom use, ask student to supports their answers with specific examples from the text. These questions align with Common Core State Standards.

1. What is the significance of the epigraph at the start of the book?

2. The title of the book is NIL. Analyze the meaning of the title in light of the entire novel. How do you think this single word captures the theme of the story?

3. NIL is told from a dual narrative. How do the alternating perspectives affect the story? What does the reader gain from the having two perspectives rather than a single narrator?

4. How does Charley and Thad’s view of the island differ? Give text-based evidence to support your position. Over the course of the novel, does either character’s view of the island change? If so, why?

5. Explain the significance of the Naming Wall for the teens who arrive on Nil. Why do you think the Wall was created in the first place?

6. One of the underlying themes of Nil is law versus anarchy. How do the “rules” of Nil--namely, that each person has 365 days to catch a gate or die and the “one person, one gate” limitation--impact that theme?

7. Thad declares that “stealing someone’s gate is island manslaughter.” Explain what Thad means by his statement. Could stealing someone’s gate ever be morally justified? Explain your reasons.

8. NIL has a full cast of characters. Who is the bravest? The most cowardly? Support your answers with examples, highlighting the differences between the two characters’ actions?

9. Throughout NIL, the idea of dangerous beauty is ever-present, as is the tension between paradise and doom. Could a NIL survivor ever appreciate true beauty or danger away from the island? Explain.

10. Describe what noon represents for the characters. How does the minute before noon differ from the moment after noon on Nil?

11. With the year deadline and constant arrival and departure of teens, the island is a revolving door. How does the constant turnover impact the retention--or loss--of island knowledge?

12. Macy states that she believes she’s on Nil for a reason, and that all the teens are there for a reason--but she also says she’s not sure that all the teens are on Nil for the same reason. What do you think Macy means in this last statement?

13. The phrase “No Regrets” and “To Now” are used throughout NIL. Discuss how these two ideas are related. How do these ideas impact the characters’ actions?

14. At the start of the novel, Charley hates to be alone. At the novel’s end, Charley says “there are worse things than being alone.” What does she mean by this last statement? How did her time on Nil contribute to this realization?

15. Charley believes Thad’s actions on his last day were “selfless” but they were also like “quitting.” Explain what she means by this statement. Were these actions consistent with Thad’s character? Why or why not?

Additional Discussion Questions for the Reader

1. If you arrived on Nil, would you choose to join the City? Why or why not? And if so, how would you see yourself contributing to the City?

2. Which character on Nil would you choose as an ally? Why?

3. What would be the hardest part for you about being on Nil? Would it be the difficulties on the island, or what you left behind?

4. What do you believe the numbers on the labyrinths represent?

5. Which character’s view of the island resonates with you most: Charley’s, or Thad’s? Explain.

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