Evade the Dark | Book Club Discussion Questions


  1. Evade is pitched as Taken (Liam Neeson, 2008) but the girl isn’t merely a MacGuffin*. She has to save herself along with her younger brother, and she does not have James Bondian skills. But what special skills does she possess that help her?
  2. By the time she’s captured, Madi has experienced casual misogyny, the hookup culture, the fallout of her father’s disastrous marriages, a loveless intimate relationship, the thrill of flirting, and she’s witnessed life at a brothel. How do these experiences prepare her for what’s to come?
  3. What are some of Madi’s actions that make things worse for her?
  4. In any given situation, Madi seems to have an ability to become whoever she needs to be. Where in Madi’s past do you think that talent comes from?
  5. A few times, Madi misdirects the reader. Example: they never got on that train. What was your reaction to these scenes?
  6. Madi, Spencer, and Rusty spend about twelve hours together. He’s not exactly their hero. But what is he to them? How would you describe the nature of their relationship?
  7. What do think about Rusty’s and Farmer Ford’s worldviews?
  8. If you had to trade places with Madi or Rusty, who would you choose?
  9. Would you have left Spencer in that greenhouse?
  10. As she’s preparing to meet Brock, her plan is to use feminine allure to get what she needs, not unlike a prostitute or Forrest Gump’s mother. Put bluntly, she’s going to trade sex for what she needs for herself and her family. As the point of no return arrives, she realizes she’s been horribly naïve. What does it say about her that she enters the bar anyway?
  11. Madi’s accustomed to having crowds admire and judge her physical form—shape and movement. Admiring, judging, desiring…feeling entitled to someone else’s body… Do these exist on the same spectrum?
  12. How do you feel about Liz Hice, the AFP analyst, and Amber Hawsleth, the FBI employee? What about Maggie and Lucy of The Coyote Ranch? And Tabitha, the Aussie trucker? And Kalina Ford?
  13. In the climax two perfectionists are facing off, but only one can conceive of their own fallibility. When considering this, does the advantage go to Doran or Madi?
  14. In the climax Madi pretends to be a frisky, self-absorbed nihilist. How does she think this choice will help her?
  15. What choices did Madi make, or what elements of her personality did you find yourself thinking about in the days after you finished the book?
  16. The Search for Macadamia, a Quest Most Noble is Evade’s parallel companion novel for the middle grades. It’s the same story, told from Spencer’s point-of-view as a fantasy action adventure. If you’ve read Macadamia, what characters and plot points were you able to match up within Evade? For instance, who is Macadamia’s gnome? Where is Spam Egnart’s in Evade?


Madi’s Mental Health

  1. Madi is a nineteen-year-old cynic. Lanre Akinsiku says, “Cynicism is the mind’s natural defense against hopelessness.” George Carlin suggests, “If you scratch the surface of a cynic, you’ll find an idealist.” Well, gymnasts are idealists, and Madi is in a hopeless situation. So who’s right, Lanre or George?  
  2. Would you diagnose Madi as clinically depressed when the story begins? Or is she suffering from something else? Is she suffering at all?
  3. How would you describe her state of mind between the helicopter crash and their arrival at Coober Pedy?
  4. What’s the road ahead for Madi?


What the Experts Want the Rest of Us to Know about Adolescent Mental Health

  1. You don’t have to have been through a war to suffer PTSD.
  2. Depression is chemistry. But we can still work to prevent it. Science has established that close family relationships reduce the occurrence of depression among adolescents. Close family in adolescence also has preventative effects for depression in adults.
  3. Therapy works! Medications are effective too for ailments like depression and anxiety, but they frequently work best in combination with therapy. For some people, therapy without the drugs is better.
  4. Like all healthcare, in mental health, prevention is important. Mental health prevention is sometimes referred to as “wellness.” Just like we are encouraged to watch what we eat and be certain we get enough exercise, the experts recommend a wellness plan for our mental health. Wellness, or wellbeing, includes strong social connections, a sense of accomplishment, being tuned-in to surroundings, and understanding which parts of your day are most meaningful.  
  5. Social media is as bad as they say.
  6. Sleep for teens is vitally important.


Sex Trafficking, Legal Prostitution, and Modern Day Slavery

Much of what I have learned about the horrid, heartbreaking reality of sex-trafficking comes from AMWA’s (American Medical Women’s Association) PATH Initiative.

  1. How pervasive is slavery today?
  1. Organizations who track slavery tell us that over 40 million people are currently enslaved worldwide. Over half of these are in forced labor. Around 15 million women in forced marriages are included in these statistics, as are an estimated 10 million children. Slavery exists all over the globe.
  2. The upper estimate of trafficked people living in the US today is 403,000. 85% of sex-trafficking victims in the US are US citizens. 35% of adult victims are men. 59% of child victims are boys.
  3. As mentioned in Evade’s Author’s Note, kidnapping is a vanishingly rare method of acquiring a slave.
  1. Is sex trafficking really a form of slavery?
  1. When freedoms are withheld—that is, when someone is trapped in her or his situation because they’ll be hurt or killed if they try to leave, that’s slavery. So yes, if a prostitute is controlled by a pimp or a gang, they’re slaves.
  2. Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking. Both are slavery. Human smuggling is different. All smuggling is bringing items or people across international borders in violation of the law. Persons being smuggled may or may not be victims of trafficking.
  1. Why are we so helpless against sex trafficking in the US?
  1. The criminals who exploit the 1% within the US are very good at avoiding legal consequences. The most visible crimes are often pinned on the victims, and so victims are motivated to live in the shadows.
  2. Furthermore, attempting to flee is an enormous act of bravery for a trafficked person. They are trapped by coercion: threats of violence, jail time, destitution…
  3. In the US, 54% of sex-trafficked victims’ first trafficking experience happens at seventeen years old or younger. Almost all victims experience recurring physical and sexual violence. Over half were abused before they were trafficked. Myriad chronic physical and mental health issues, not to mention poverty, result from being trafficked. It’s not a life situation a victim can simply walk away from.
  4. These are some of the reasons, the PATH Initiative discourages the fantasy of rescuing victims.
  1. Where do buyers fit in?
  1. Where there are buyers, there are sellers. In most parts of the US, buyers are criminals. The live and let live stance on prostitution can only apply to sex workers who have chosen that line of work for themselves, without coercion. Buyers who buy sex from a pimp or gang are not only abetting crime, they are deepening victims’ trauma and misery.
  2. Some PATH Initiative statistics: 79% of buyers have college degrees. The average age is 39. 62% have romantic partners.
  1. Additional resources:
    The US Department of Human Services’ Blue Campaign
    End Slavery Now



* A MacGuffin is a plot device. It’s the ever so important thing in the story. It’s Frodo’s ring. It’s the pearl in Steinbeck’s The Pearl. Sometimes they are characters. It’s Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. It’s the killer in every whodunit. It’s the damsel in distress. Harry Potter’s MacGuffins are always conveniently named in the titles: Harry Potter and (MacGuffin). MacGuffin characters are often helpless. As villains, MacGuffin characters are typically one-dimensional.