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Grief Girl

Reading Discussion Guides

Cures for Heartbreak and Grief Girl (Memoir vs. Fiction)

About the Book

In Cures for Heartbreak, Margo Rabb writes a fictional account of a 15-year old girl whose mother dies just days after being diagnosed with melanoma; then her father falls ill, too. Using vignettes — many appeared elsewhere as short stories — Rabb helps us understand her fictional alter ego Mia, as well as Mia’s deceased mother and grieving father.

Erin Vincent’s Grief Girl is a memoir about a 14-year old girl whose parents are killed in a car accident — her mother dies instantly, while her father lingers before unexpectedly passing. Vincent takes a more linear approach, showing how her grief changes but never quite goes away.

Both books capture the powerful emotions of the author. Occasional strong language is included, especially as the protagonists rail against the unfairness of losing a parent.

These books provide an excellent opportunity for both reading and writing classes to discuss the distinctions between fiction and memoir — a popular topic among adults, too, with controversy surrounding James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces.

Discussion Questions

  • Read the first chapter of each book. Can you identify which one is the memoir and which one is fiction?
  • Read the authors’ backgrounds on their websites: What, if anything, does knowing this author history add to the book?
  • Vincent’s memoir has a lot of dialogue, though the author wrote the book nearly 20 years after the fact. How important is it that this dialogue be accurate?
  • Why do you think Rabb decided to write her book as fiction instead of a memoir?
  • Both characters refer to the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Research what is meant by these and identify examples from each book, where each main character experiences the stages in coping with their grief.

Cures for Heartbreak

Margo Rabb
Age Level:
Grief Girl

Grief Girl

Erin Vincent
Age Level: