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A Certain October

A Certain October

For Ages: 14 and up
  • reading group guide
  • 4awards
From three-time Coretta Scott King Award–winner Angela Johnson, a wrenching, honest book about surviving the unimaginable and finding a way to go on.

Scotty compares herself to tofu: no flavor unless you add something. And it’s true that Scotty’s friends, Misha and Falcone, and her brother, Keone, make life delicious. But when a terrible accident occurs, Scotty feels responsible for the loss of someone she hardly knew, and the world goes wrong. She cannot tell what is a dream and what is real. Her friends are having a hard time getting through to her and her family is preoccupied with their own trauma. But the prospect of a boy, a dance, and the possibility that everything can fall back into place soon helps Scotty realize that she is capable of adding her own flavor to life.

With artfully spare prose, acclaimed and award-winning author Angela Johnson explores the ramifications of unexpected death in this compelling coming-of-age story. An ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick.
Choose a format:
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 176 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689870651 | 
  • September 2013 | 
  • Grades 9 and up
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Read an Excerpt



IN THE FUTURE, WHEN I IMAGINE I MIGHT BE famous or infamous for something I’ve done, I suppose people will ask what it was that brought me to that place. Well, if I’m infamous I will say—no eyewitnesses and a good lawyer. If I’m famous I will say, I guess I just wanted it bad enough. One of these scenarios will probably be true, but more than likely neither will happen.

Most likely I’ll live my life like most people on the planet. Highs, lows, buy some shit, read some books, love some people, try not to eff the world up, and be kind to animals so they won’t eat me, as I’ve chosen to try... see more

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

A Certain October
By Angela Johnson


About the Book

What would you do if your life drastically changed in an instant? Scotty is a regular teenager, looking forward to the upcoming homecoming dance. Besides the challenges she faces with her developmentally disabled little brother and the antics of her vivacious group of friends, she leads a pretty normal life. Scotty has a very loving family that supports her, despite the fact that they may be a little chaotic at times.

Then, an accidental run-in on a train with a boy from school changes her life forever. With the help of her friends and family, Scotty tries to return to her everyday life after the unexpected death of someone she was just starting to get to know. Can Scotty forgive herself, and persevere through recent traumatic events?

Discussion Questions

Please use examples from the text to support your answers.

1. Identify the main characters in the story—Scotty, Misha, and Falcone. How are their personalities similar? How are their personalities different? *(R.CCR.1)

2. In Chapter 3, Scotty uses a simile to compare her life to tofu. What does Scotty mean by this simile, and why do you think she chooses tofu? (R.CCR.4)

3. The author leaves the matter of what happened to Scotty’s mother uncertain. What do you think happene see more

About the Author

Angela Johnson
Photograph by Roz Pinkard

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at AJohnsonAuthor.com.

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