NOTE: This discussion guide for Horseshoes and Hand Grenades contains spoilers.
1. Which of the friends did you relate to most? Why? Did you dislike any of them?
2. The novel includes emotional scenes related to mental health, racism and immigration. Did any of those scenes change your perspective on these issues?
3. Do you think Charley’s beliefs in animal omens and her seven-year curse are well-founded or irrational? What purpose do they serve her, if any? Does her belief in superstitions change by the end of the story?
4. Buwan hides his Bi-polar 1 from his friends, other than Charley. Do you think he should have been more open? Might that have made a difference in his life?
5. Jess and Terrance form an unlikely pair, yet they connect in numerous ways. Why do you think they are attracted to each other? Do you think their relationship will last?
6. Xander is traumatized by his treatment at the community meeting to discuss plans for the nature preserve. Why was he so upset? Do the feelings evoked by that scene call to mind any other scenes in the novel?
7. Xander’s violent behavior at the protest-turned-riot horrifies him after the fact. Why did he vandalize the police cruiser? Is his reaction understandable, or simply unacceptable in our society?
8. What Charley perceives as back-to-back betrayals—Xander’s personality change at the riot, and the pending sale of the bookstore orchestrated by Jess—send her spiraling into a deep depression. Were you surprised at this development? Why or why not?
9. Jess’s decisions—in particular not telling Charley about the bookstore sale, and leaking the immigration story to the newspaper—hurt people she cares about. Do you agree with her choices or not? Do you think she learns anything from these experiences?
10. How would you handle the trolley dilemma described in Chapter 26? Does your view change if you know the one person but not the five?
11. The characters have differing views on immigration. Did Bertie’s story change your personal views at all? (To read Bertie’s full story, access Bonus Materials on the author’s website at AuthorSMStevens.com/BATT-Bonus-Materials/)
12. Do the racism episodes ring true to you? Have you experienced or witnessed similar behavior? How did reading those scenes make you feel?
13. What do you think of Terrance’s commitment to only marrying within his race?
14. Which of the characters’ views on activism change during the novel? Did your own view change at all?
15. Do you think Bu’s accident was truly an accident or was it intentional?
16. Were you surprised by Charley’s attraction to Sunny? Why or why not?
17. The novel incorporates racism, immigration, mental health, women’s rights, gender identity, sexual orientation, and even environmental justice. Is this a realistic portrait of life in America today?