In Julie A. Swanson’s Going for the Record, seventeen-year-old Leah faces a future she never imagined. Her dream of making the national soccer team is just within reach, but her dad has news will make her reconsider everything that matters most to her. Leah’s father has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he may only have months to live.
The book addresses many rich, complex themes, including ambition, family relationships, and the complicated nature of grief. After reading Going for the Record, use the questions below to start a thoughtful conversation with your class, book club, soccer team, or other group.
- Leah loves soccer—the games, the plays, even the sweat-drenched aftermath. How do Julie Swanson’s descriptions help you participate in Leah’s passion?
- How does Leah’s relationship with the idea of “the future” change throughout Going for the Record?
- Leah’s mom thinks her daughter is unhealthily obsessed with soccer, but Leah just thinks she’s determined to achieve her dreams. Do you agree more with Leah or her mother? Are there ways to tell the difference between passion and obsession?
- Have you ever had to go through normal life—like going to school, work, or participating in sports—while grappling with hard news? If you’re comfortable sharing details, are Leah’s reactions similar to your own?
- Going for the Record takes place in the context of a small community and a close-knit extended family. How might the story change if it took place in a big city or within an estranged family? What do you think the author’s chosen contexts add to the story?
- Leah struggles to mention her dad’s situation to people outside of her family, especially college coaches. Why do you think this is?
- How does “hope” change for the Weicyzynkowski family over the course of the book?
- Are there points in the story where you wish you could give Leah advice? When? What would you tell her?
- Going for the Record includes many detailed descriptions of medical decisions, processes, and procedures. What do you think these add to the story? How would the book be different if these scenes were vaguer or happened “offscreen”?
- Compare and contrast the ways the three Weicyzynkowski women—Leah, her mom, and her grandma—cope with the events of the book. How are they similar? How are they different? How do you see them learning from each other?
- The Weicyzynkowskis find comfort in their Catholic faith and in their community. Do you find the book’s depictions of doubt, prayer, and belief realistic? Why or why not?
- Do you think Leah and Clay are good for each other? Why or why not? Why do you think Leah finally reconciles with Clay at the funeral, not earlier on in the story?
- Why do you think Leah has a difficult time accepting help from Clay, Enzo, or the rest of her community?
- What do you think Leah’s life will look like after the book ends? How do you think soccer will feature in that life?