Study Guide

Savvy Themes

  • Communication

    From mind-speaking tattoos to good ole-fashioned jaw flapping, communication makes the world go 'round… or so we find in Savvy. The people that wind up the happiest are the ones who communicate a lot—with both themselves and with each other.

    The happiest family in the book is the Beaumonts. They're brought together in secrecy by their magical talents, but as a family they talk openly about what's going on with each other. How about all of the times that Momma discusses savvies and what happens with the kids? Sure the average teenager probably hates this (we're looking at you reader), but the result is that the kids are able to handle the changes they go through much better because of it.

    Look at Miss Rosemary—she assumes what is best for her kids and never asks them what they want or prefer, and the result is that the kids resent her for it.

    Lill Kitely is a person who is openly content with herself, and she infects others with her happiness because she's willing to lay everything on the table. Lester, on the other hand, is too scared to talk, and his tattoos tell the story of his sadness and insecurity. Through Lill's support and conversation, Lester becomes much happier with himself and the path that he chooses to follow.

    Questions About Communication

    1. Which characters become happier because of good communication?
    2. Which characters are bad communicators? Do their communication styles make them bad people?
    3. Do Mibs and Bobbi only communicate through Bobbi's temporary tattoo?
    4. If good communication means being happy, who would be the happiest character in the book?

    Chew on This

    Mibs becomes a happy person because she learns new forms of communication.

    Because Carlene can't communicate any way other than yelling and being mean, she and Lester will always have a bad relationship.

  • Family

    The family that savvies together, stays together—that's how the saying goes, right? A lot of characters in Savvy have something that's different about them, even if they don't have supernatural powers. Lill is a small woman in a big woman's body, Will Junior is not the Pastor's son, and poor Lester is having a horrible time with his tattoo mom. You may not be able to choose who you're related to in this book, but if you're smart, you'll choose to see what's great about your family, no matter how motley, untraditional, or supernatural they are.

    Questions About Family

    1. Would you call Lester and Lill a family by the end of the book? Why?
    2. How do the Beaumont kids and the Meeks kids become a family?
    3. Would you rather be a member of the Beaumont family or the Meeks family? Why?
    4. Do Lester's mother and ex-girlfriend act like family to Lester?

    Chew on This

    Blood is thicker than water in this book, and everyone ultimately sticks with their kin.

    In this book, family is defined as more than just the people you're related to by blood.

  • Loyalty

    Sticking with the people who have got your back comes up a lot in Savvy as adventure takes the gang all over Kansas and Nebraska. Although there's a bit of lying involved with the adults, the kids stick together so that Mibs, Fish, and Samson can all get to the hospital to see Poppa. And it is loyalty to Poppa in the first place, of course, that inspires Mibs to make her way nomatterwhat in his direction. In other words, without loyalty we wouldn't even have a book to read and chat about. Now wouldn't that be a bummer?

    Questions About Loyalty

    1. Is Mibs as loyal to Fish as he is to her?
    2. Does the fact that Rocket leaves to go to Montana make him disloyal to the family?
    3. Do Lester and Lill break their loyalty with their employers?
    4. How does Bobbi show loyalty to the rest of the gang?

    Chew on This

    Loyalty grows like a weed, especially between people who have learned to trust one another.

    Loyalty is the great equalizer: when the kids are loyal to one another, they come together and can accomplish any feat.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Liar, liar, pants on—wait, Rocket might actually set your pants on fire. Lies and deceit are almost never the best options, but sometimes the characters in Savvy need to use them to get by. The Beaumonts, for instance, have really cool superpowers, but they have to hide them to keep themselves safe. And the lying and deceiving doesn't stop with other people in this book either—many characters lie and deceive themselves as well. This usually leaves them pretty unhappy, though. Fortunately all they have to do is start telling themselves the truth though, to get on the path to happiness.

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    1. Are the Beaumonts liars because they keep the secret of their savvies from everyone outside the family?
    2. How is Miss Rosemary a liar about her family?
    3. Does lying have a bad effect or a good effect in the story? Both?
    4. Does Samson's hiding qualify as deceiving?

    Chew on This

    Sometimes the end justifies the means, when lying means protecting someone.

    Lying and deceiving generally just adds to your troubles.

  • Suffering

    It's never fun, but sometimes you need to suffer a bit in order to truly understand joy. The Beaumonts go through a really tough time when Poppa gets into a car accident and falls into a coma, throwing the whole family into limbo as they wonder whether or not their father will die. Mibs takes it harder in some ways than the rest of her family does, and on her birthday, believing that her savvy is waking things up, she starts a crazy crusade to Kansas so that she can pull Poppa out of the coma. She is devastated when she realizes that her savvy is hearing thoughts instead, and it's made worse by the thought that Poppa may never come out of his coma. Ugh.

    Questions About Suffering

    1. Why does Lester suffer so much from the voices in his head?
    2. Do Fish and Samson suffer on the journey as much as Mibs does?
    3. How does the Meeks family suffer?
    4. Outside of Poppa's accident, what are other times the Beaumonts have suffered together?

    Chew on This

    Suffering reminds us of what is good in our lives and reminds us that we're alive.

    Suffering is our punishment for doing foolish things.

  • Perseverance

    Perseverance is a trait that runs through the Beaumonts like their blood, and that courses through Savvy too. In the words of Mibs at the end, "You do have a savvy Poppa"—and she's totally right. Poppa's savvy is that he doesn't give up, and it serves him well, even helping him make it out of his coma in one piece. And the rest of his family doesn't quit either. Mibs refuses to abandon her quest to save her beloved Poppa, no matter how discouraging the journey to reach him becomes, and Fish and Samson stick by their sister the whole way.

    Though you probably can't cause an earthquake or hear people's thoughts through their tattoos, perseverance is once savvy that anyone can acquire if they just put their minds to it.

    Questions About Perseverance

    1. What is the difference between the way that Mibs perseveres compared to Momma?
    2. Does Lester give up?
    3. Does Mibs make things harder for herself so she has to persevere?
    4. Does Poppa really have a savvy, or is he simply really good at persevering?

    Chew on This

    "You never can tell when a bad thing might make a good thing happen," says Lill at one point. Perseverance is all about hope that things will get better.

    Hopeless situations are the time when perseverance is needed the most.

  • Tradition

    Tradition holds up and is thrown out the door in Savvy. Tradition is essential for the Beaumonts, though not the standard holiday variety you might be thinking of. Instead all of the kids stop attending to school and start being homeschooled when they turn thirteen because their savvies show up then and they need ample time to learn to scumble them.

    But even this tradition isn't airtight, and it is broken a little bit at the end when Fish manages to scumble so well that he can return to school after only two years (most kids never go back). Mibs even looks like she'll break the tradition by the end of the book, though she and Momma decide that she'll wait another year.

    Questions About Tradition

    1. Would the Beaumonts call homeschooling a tradition?
    2. Is the abuse that Carla and Rhonda force onto Lester a tradition?
    3. Would you call it tradition that the Beaumonts get their savvy on their thirteenth birthday? Why?
    4. What are some traditions that the Meeks family participates in?

    Chew on This

    Tradition is the only thing keeping the Beaumonts from total chaos.

    Breaking the rules and breaking tradition are what ultimately save Poppa's life.

  • The Supernatural

    There's a whole bunch of super powers running through the Beaumont clan, though everyone else in the world seems to be ordinary. The supernatural is localized in Savvy, and shows up only in the adult members of one particular family and nobody else. And by adult, of course, we mean thirteen year olds and older.

    Mibs has the ability to hear what people are thinking if they have ink on their skin, Fish summons storms, Rocket generates electricity, Grandpa causes earthquakes, Grandma would catch radio waves in jars, and Momma does everything perfectly. Only time will tell what savvies Samson and Gypsy will develop…

    Questions About The Supernatural

    1. What kinds of savvies to you think Will Junior or Bobbi would have?
    2. What are savvies a metaphor for?
    3. Why do people have completely different savvies and no repeats?
    4. Would the Beaumonts have it easier if they didn't have any savvies?

    Chew on This

    The supernatural in Savvy represents the changes that come with adolescence.

    There's no such thing as magic, according to some of the Beaumonts.

  • Innocence and Loss of Innocence

    Spoiler alert: Savvies are metaphors for growing up… which is why they show up on thirteenth birthdays. Hello teen years, and goodbye childhood. There's a lot to be said for being an innocent kid—you don't have to worry about as much—but once you become a teenager and get your savvy, you're a more grownup person with responsibilities and scumbling to master. In other words, in Savvy, savvies are all tied up with losing innocence and developing savvy about yourself and the world around you.

    Questions About Innocence and Loss of Innocence

    1. Do Lill and Lester still have their innocence, even though they are adults?
    2. Has Will lost his innocence?
    3. Does getting her savvy mean that Mibs has lost her innocence?
    4. How does Bobbi still show signs of innocence?

    Chew on This

    Losing innocence is the same thing as being completely honest with yourself in this book.

    Innocence, and its loss, are not necessarily bad things in Savvy.