KEEP YOU CLOSE by Karen Cleveland Reader’s Guide Chapters 1-14
· What’s your first impression of Steph Maddox? How does your impression of her change throughout the first fourteen chapters?
· When Steph first discovers the gun in Zachary’s closet, her mind immediately conjures several memories of Zachary’s childhood. Why do you think that is? What role does memory play in the novel?
· At the end of this Chapter 14, we realize Zach is meeting Halliday, his paternal father. At this point in the story, do you believe he is guilty or innocent? And of what crimes?
· Discuss the role of technology. How does Zachary’s technological prowess contradict Steph’s lack of technological knowhow, and why is it important for the plot? How does this apply to real life, when kids are becoming increasingly technologically savvy and many parents are not?
· A lot of the plot depends on Zachary being a teenage boy. How would this book be different if Steph had a daughter instead of a son? Chapters 15-31
· Steph is often torn between her career and her family. Her mother thinks she prioritizes her career, but Steph feels she can do what is best for her son and make something of her life. What do you think? Have you experienced a similar tension in your life?
· When Karen Cleveland was writing Keep You Close
, the #MeToo movement was taking off and provided inspiration for Steph’s character, who is swept up in Senator Halliday’s quest for political power. Discuss this plotline.
· In Chapter 20, Steph and her former CIA friend discuss what it’s like being a woman in a male dominated field. How did you feel about their conversation? Have you had similar experiences in your career?
· At this point in the book, Steph is completely convinced Zachary is innocent and being framed. Do you believe her, or do you think there’s more to the story?
· Zachary keeps asking his mother to tell him what’s going on. She doesn’t, believing keeping the truth from him will keep him safer. Do you agree with her decision? What would change if Steph shared all of her information with him? Chapters 31-51
· As Steph uncovers more information, she believes there are many possible suspects: Senator Halliday, Agent Jackson, The Russians, etc. Who do you think is the likely perpetrator and who is the red herring?
· Most of the book is written in first person, with Steph narrating her own story. But occasionally, a third-person omniscient narrator interrupts. Why? What purpose does that serve?
· Steph’s mother accuses of not knowing Zachary at all. How well do you think any mother knows her teenage son?
· How is the chess game Steph and Zach are playing used as a metaphor?
· At the end of this section, Steph decides to tell Scott everything—and then he’s suddenly killed in a car crash and Steph is warned that Zachary is next. Who do you think is behind this? Chapters 53-Epilogue
· Discuss the shocking conclusion. What do you think ultimately happens?
· Was Steph right to decide to protect her son even though he was involved in the murder of Senator Halliday?
· What would you have done in Steph’s position?
· Looking back: What do you think would have happened if Steph had told the FBI the minute she found the gun in Zachary’s closet?
· In writing this novel, author Karen Cleveland wanted her protagonist to question how well she truly knows her son. To what lengths would you go to protect those you love most? If forced to choose, which would you pick: your country or your family?