Study Guide

The Demon's Lexicon Family

By Sarah Rees Brennan

Family

Sometimes families are dysfunctional, and we'd say the Ryveses in The Demon's Lexicon qualify on that front—even without all their wild supernatural juju. A mother who hates one of her sons so much she can't even bear to meet his eyes? That's pretty weird, and as readers we spend a large part of the novel wondering what her problem is—and why both Nick and Alan seem to just accept it. Is it because you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your family? Are they just stuck with this dynamic, for better or for worse? What obligations do people have to their family members just because they're family?

Oh, and one last thing: just because you can pick your nose doesn't mean you should.

Questions About Family

  1. How does your view of the Ryves family and how they relate to one another change over the course of the book as you learn more about them and their history together?
  2. Nick and Alan are pretty much on their own in the world, and so are Mae and Jamie. Why do you think Sarah Rees Brennan set it up so that none of the four young adult characters have positive parental influences? Is the absence of good parents an important part of the story? Why or why not? How would the story be different if Daniel Ryves (Alan and Nick's primary father figure) had lived? What if Mae and Jamie had an involved parent? Do you think Brennan is trying to make any kind of statement about the role of parents and family in the lives of young adults?
  3. In dysfunctional families, children often play one of four roles: hero, scapegoat, mascot, or lost child. Read this description of the roles from the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and see if you think Alan, Nick, Mae, or Jamie fit into any of these roles. Does anyone fit any of the roles? Does anyone fit more than one? Explain.
  4. What is it that makes two people family, anyway? Is it blood? Is it love? Is it growing up in the same household? We said before that you can't pick your family (just your friends, and your nose), but maybe we were wrong. What do you think? And what do you think the characters in The Demon's Lexicon would have to say about this?

Chew on This

No matter how dysfunctional a family may be, the members of that family will always be bound together if for no other reason than that they are, in fact, family.

Books like The Demon's Lexicon, in which there are no reliable or likable parental figures, do a disservice to mothers and fathers everywhere by implying that they are neither important nor necessary in their children's lives.

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