Discussion Questions

Following are Questions for Discussion after reading Vertical:


  1. Compare the behavior of skaters at Green Valley skatepark to the behavior of skaters at Old Oaks Park. How does having rules or not having rules influence the way people behave?
  2. Would you rather skate at Old Oaks Park, Green Valley skatepark or street skate? Why?
  3. On pages 33-34 Josh’s mother complains about the way skaters act at Old Oaks park. How does Josh’s opinion of the skaters at Old Oaks Park differ from his mother’s? Who do you agree with and why?
  4. Josh is beginning to believe the stereotype that all skaters are “dirtbags,” but on page 66, Josh and his math tutor Zander talk about the different kinds of people who skate. How does Zander help Josh think about skaters in a new way?
  5. When Josh and Erin are talking about the novel, Of Mice and Men, Erin tells Josh, “Maybe . . . sometimes. . . you have to do something bad, to do something good . . .like maybe sometimes . . .you have to be a bad friend to be a good one.” What do you think Erin means here? Do you agree or disagree with what she says about friendship? Why?
  6. There is a pivotal scene toward the end of Vertical in which Josh stares at a poster of Danny Way airing over the wall of China. Josh points out that “. . . even though there’s people everywhere watching (Danny Way) blaze through the sky, when (Danny Way’s) skating, he’s alone . . .” What impact does this realization have on Josh?
  7. What does Josh learn about Erin as he gets to know her better and what kind of influence does their friendship have on Josh?
  8. When Josh and Erin are talking about the play Antigone Erin says, “. . . maybe sometimes you have to make up your own rules, do what you think is right, then no matter what, you win, no matter what other people say.”  Explain what you think she means here. Do you agree or disagree with this idea? Why?
  9. What does Josh learn about dropping in on the vert ramp and what does he learn about falling? What lessons do skaters learn from skateboarding that they can apply to other areas of their lives?
  10. On page 52, Josh explains that Antigone goes against her uncle’s rigid rules to stand up for something that she knows is right. On pages 92, Josh tells Erin that the night Erin saved his life, she acted like Antigone. Explain what you think Josh means here.
  11. One of the unspoken rules that Josh believes he must follow is “no body likes a rat”. Does this unspoken rule exist in your community? When is it okay to break this rule?
  12.  Josh goes along with the idea that “no one likes a rat” even though he knows that Lenny is doing bad things in his community. What would have happened if Josh had never told the truth about Lenny to Detective Jim Fields? What would have happened if he had told the authorities about Lenny sooner when Lenny stole credit cards from Mrs. Thompson?
  13. Do you think skaters should wear helmets? Why or why not?
  14. Why does Josh keep referring to school as a prison? How does his attitude toward school change by the end of the novel?
  15.  Josh Lowman loves skating and he is committed to skating whenever he can. What do you love to do? How does having an activity that you’re passionate about affect your life?