Seventeen-year-old Becky Martin dreams of being a stand-up comic. She also craves the affection of a boyfriend. When attractive Kip, a rising star in the San Francisco comedy club scene, comes into Becky's life, she thinks she's found her soul mate. But she soon discovers that Kip has a dark side, and control and jealousy appear to be the price she must pay for his love. Will Becky find the strength and courage to get help?
In this powerful novel, Janet Tashjian tackles the difficult subject of teen relationship abuse from the viewpoints of both the victim and the perpetrator.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Take my life ... please.
Laughter is one of the only things in life you can count on to bail you out of anything. Even when you're grief-stricken, shocked, or petrified, laughter can bring you back to that place deep inside that knows there's life beyond your pain. I remember the day I learned this in my bones: my uncle Danny had just died, and my mother had spent most of the morning sobbing at the kitchen table. I was maybe four at the time, feeling more helpless than usual. My father had brought up some extra chairs from the basement for all the relatives who would be coming in from out of town. I didn't notice when I sat on one that it was missing its cane seat. PLOP--I went right through the frame of the chair onto the floor. I didn't cry; I grinned--the shock of the fall was a welcome surprise from all the sadness. My mother burst into laughter at the sight of her little girl sprawled on the rug, smiling. Which of course made me fall through the chair again. And again. It was as if I hadwaved a magic wand. Before my very eyes, she was transformed from a broken-hearted woman back into good old Mom. Because of my actions, because of me. Humor was something thunderous from the heavens, with a power to change things in an instant.
Of course, bottling something as formidable as lightning is a tricky thing. Trickier still to do it night after night. Most of the time when I'm onstage, I feel like an alchemist: mixing a little bit of this story, a slice of that detail to come up with a fresh and humorous aha for the crowd to enjoy. But sometimes you fall flat, with a joke so inert you want to hang your coat on it. Those nights, it's back to the drawing board, pure and simple.
Here's what I want more than anything: not to headline the Improv, not to join the cast of SNL. (Okay, you nailed me. OF COURSE I WANT THOSE THINGS. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.) But more than those--much more--I want to learn how to trust my instincts. It's the part of comedy I haven't gotten a handle on yet, although I work on those skills all the time. Where I intuitively come up with some thought on the spot that binds me and the audience together for a brief moment--I get goose bumps just thinking about it. During each performance, there's some connection with the audience, but I'm talking about the cathartic,spontaneous kind. The search for that link keeps me writing jokes, keeps me auditioning, keeps me hoping lightning can strike.
I'm like Ben Franklin in a storm, holding a kite, a key, and ajar.
Waiting to connect.
Copyright © 2003 by Janet Tashjian
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. What does Becky find attractive about Kip when she first meets him at the comedy club? What are some things Kip does that make Becky fall in love with him?
2. What are some initial clues you get that Kip is trying to control Becky's life?
3. Abby says to Becky, "You're turning into one of those girls we hate...A girl like Lynda, who only joins the living between boyfriends" (p. 68). How does Becky's relationship with Kip affect her friendship with Abby? What does Becky realize when she compares her relationship with Kip to Abby's relationship with Jacob? If you had a friend in a situation like Becky's, what would you do and say to help her?
4. Why can't Becky fully enjoy her time with her mother on the UCLA campus and at The Comedy Store? What does her mother mean when she says, "[Love is] never that simple...Being in a relationship is the most complicated thing in the world" (p. 93)?
5. What are some things Becky does to try to please Kip? Why doesn't she break up with Kip after he physically assaults her the first time? What happens to make Becky finally recognize that she has lost control of her life?
6. Becky's old boyfriend Peter says, "I don't remember ever being angry at you. You're too easygoing to get mad at" (p. 133). What does Becky's conversation with Peter make her realize about her relationship with Kip?
7. How did you feel when reading Kip's entries in his paper-towel dialogues? Why do you think Janet Tashjian included these entries? Do you think Kip is a bad guy?
8. In the author's note at the end of the book, she references a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association stating that "one out of every five" teenage girls gets physically abused by her boyfriend. Is this statistic surprising to you? Are you amazed that a smart, funny, ambitious girl like Becky could be a victim of teen relationship abuse? Why or why not?
9. Discuss the significance of the novel's title. What does it suggest about Becky and Kip's relationship?