Study Questions – Shrug 1. Physical symptoms sometimes reveal feelings that cannot otherwise be expressed. For what feelings might Martha’s shrug be a stand-in? 2. Martha does well in school, but constantly feels in over her head academically. How is this realistic? How does Martha’s home life contribute to her experience of school? 3. How is Smoke and Records “the opposite” of being at home, as Martha says? How is it like being at home? 4. In the first paragraph of the book, Martha indirectly tells us that “not knowing” is a big deal in her life. How does “not knowing” play out in the book? 5. How do Martha’s relationships with her siblings, Hildy and Drew, help us better understand her character? What about Martha’s relationship with best friend Stephanie? With Clifton? 6. Martha learns how to practice violin from Mrs. Cray, who tells her to “isolate the spots” that need work. At one point, Martha observes that this phrase is “the opposite” of bookstores and libraries, where she feels overwhelmed by all she doesn’t know. Discuss. 7. Even when Martha’s mother Willa is cruel to Martha and her siblings, Martha remains loyal to her, and is completely blindsided by Willa’s ultimate rejection. Discuss. 8. Why does Martha tend to blame herself for the bad things that happen, such as the mother cat eating her kittens? 9. When the school principal excuses Martha’s absence even though she doesn’t have a note from home, why isn’t she entirely happy with his kindness? 10. Why does Martha stand on the sidelines of the 1960s Berkeley protests? 11. What is the significance of Shrug’s running “soundtrack”? Discuss the classical music references and the popular songs. What weight do they carry? 12. Which character should win the Awful Parent of the Year award, Jules or Willa?