The Stormchasers

Readers’ Guide

  1. Besides being the book’s title, THE STORMCHASERS comprise a major part of Blum’s novel.  Why do you think Blum chose stormchasing as a context for this story?  How do you think the novel would have been different without the storms? In what ways do the storms function as metaphors for the novel’s central themes?
  2. Discuss the storms:  How did you react to the descriptions of severe weather?  Did this novel make you think differently about stormchasing?  Would you ever go stormchasing?  Why or why not?  How does Kevin’s rationale for pursuing dangerous weather differ from Charles’s? From Karena’s?  Does Karena’s attitude toward storms change over the course of the novel, and if so, how?
  3. The Hallingdahl family:  Would you describe it as functional or dysfunctional?  Which of their patterns and attitudes made you say this?  How has Charles’s bipolarity affected the family?  What might Frank, Siri, Karena and Charles’s relationships been like if Charles did not have bipolar disorder?
  4. Siri:  What do you think of Siri’s handling of Charles’s bipolarity?  Why do you think she makes the choices she does?  In what ways do you empathize with her?  Disagree with her?  In what ways might Siri be typical of the mother of a bipolar child? Atypical?
  5. Discuss Karena.  If you had to choose one word to describe her, how would it be?  Did your reactions to her change over the course of the novel? If so, how and why?  How are Karena’s adolescent experiences reflected in her adult life?  What has affected her most:  secrecy, guilt over not having Charles’s bipolar disorder, being a “twinless twin”?  Has Karena changed throughout the novel, and how?
  6. Explore your feelings for Charles.  Did you admire him?  Dislike him?  Did your feelings change throughout the course of the novel?  If so, how and why?
  7. Charles’s bipolar disorder is described throughout the novel as a separate entity: “the djinn,” “the Stranger.”  Why does Blum do this?  Do you know anyone in your life with bipolar disorder?  What has that experience been like?  Discuss the characters’ struggles with medication, side effects, extreme moods, and secrecy. Which of the novel’s descriptions of the disorder resonate most with you, and why?
  8. What might Charles have been like if he didn’t have bipolar disorder?  Beyond his disorder, how would you describe his personality?
  9. Charles and Karena have very different views about how Charles should manage his bipolarity:  Karena insisting Charles seek medical help, Charles insisting on holistic and alternative measures.  Whom do you tend to side with on this issue, Charles or Karena?  Why?
  10. Consider Karena’s decisions throughout the novel:
    • protecting Charles’s secret;
    • stormchasing to pursue Charles;
    • taking him into her home;
    • the decision she reaches at the end.

      Would you have made the same choices?  Why or why not?

  11. Discuss the “twindar relationship.”  To what extent does Karena’s being Charles’s twin play into her actions and decisions?  How has being a twin shaped her?  Charles?  If you are a twin or know twins, how are Karena and Charles typical?  Different?
  12. Discuss Kevin:  If you had to describe him with one adjective, what would it be?  What do you think draws Karena to Kevin and vice versa?  In your opinion, are Kevin and Karena a good match?  Why or why not?
  13. Both Karena and Kevin turn Charles over for psychological intervention at some point in the book. Do you think this helped or hurt Charles? How did their separate but similar decisions affect their relationships with him?
  14. How would you feel about having a serious relationship with someone who has a troubled or sick sibling? Would you consider what your responsibility might be? What do you think about how Kevin handled this?  Discuss Kevin’s immediate reaction to Karena when he finds out her secret:  understandable or extreme?
  15. The book’s ending:  Were you surprised by Karena’s decision?  Do you think the twins got what they deserved?  What do you think happens to Karena after the book ends?  To Charles?