Lockdown - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

  1. Rowan is a strong character who has had a lot of emergency preparation training. How does her training help her make choices when the earthquake hits? Do you agree with all her choices?

  2. Jake has been fairly protected for most of his life. How does this influence his ability to deal with the earthquake? How does he change over the next week?

  3. To Rowan, it’s really important to see her father in the hospital. If you were in her situation, do you think you would leave the compound to try to see someone you loved? What do you think Rowan should have done?

  4. It’s revealed in a couple of places that Michael is gay. Some readers thought the theme of his gender identity should have been more fully explored. Did it make sense to you that his sexuality was just part of his character, like having brown hair and hazel eyes? Or did this fact needed greater investigation?

  5. Rowan’s mother, Dixie, is determined to get back to her family as soon as she can. Is Rowan like Dixie? In what ways?

  6. Linda has not told Jake who his real father is for sixteen years. Do you think she should have told Jake sooner? If not, then when? Should she have told him at all?

  7. Did Greg / Ray have any right to approach Jake without first contacting Linda for permission? How did the earthquake change his timing?

  8. It’s important to prepare for emergencies but do you think it’s possible to be too prepared? Was Tony too prepared? Do you think his house, with its chain-link fence made people curious about what was inside?

  9. Before the earthquake Tony boasted to neighbours about how prepared he was. Do you think this influenced the fact that the house was targeted by crowds?

  10. If you were preparing for an emergency today, what do you think you would put in your backpack? It is recommended that you pack something for entertainment (cards, books etc) and a little bit of comfort food. What would your choices be there?

  11. Stories don’t really end. How do you think Rowan and her family would be living in one week’s time? One month? One year? 

Are you feeling a bit like a lunatic?

Last night a super-moon shone in the night sky, so brilliant you could read a book by it. A super-moon looks huge because it is closer to earth than ever. It is a perigee moon.


Lockdown happens on a hot August day, much like the summer we are having now in the Pacific Northwest. At the start of the novel there is a rare great earthquake that alters life forever for Rowan Morgan.

The theme of the novel is chaos: how do people behave when their lives are changed dramatically and forever?

Stephen Hawking said that intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. Ivan Urlaub added to that by saying wisdom is knowing why or how to adapt for more than personal or economic gain.

Some people think a full moon influences our behaviour. This is called the lunar effect. If the earthquake had happened during a super-moon, would the characters have acted differently?

Do any characters in Lockdown show that they can adapt for the new order of things? Who adapts for personal gain and who adapts to help others?



Lockdown is being released this month (April 2014) by Great Plains Publishing. Please order it either directly from the publisher or ask for it at your neighbourhood bookshop. 

If you prefer to borrow rather than buy, please ask for it at your local library branch.

Synopsis: When a great earthquake rocks the Pacific Northwest, fifteen-year-old Rowan Morgan is hiking in a suburban forest. Tremors rip the coast from Oregon to Alaska and turn Rowan’s world upside down. After her father is wounded and taken to the hospital, Rowan and her brother shelter inside his earthquake-proof, survivalist home. While the electrified fences offer some protection, it isn’t long before mobs gather, desperate for some of the food and water rumoured to be held inside.

Rowan knows that if the hungry neighbours had any true idea of the riches in her father’s cellar and water tanks, they wouldn’t be sent away so easily. Early one morning, Rowan leaves the compound and sets off in search of her father. She is turned away from the hospital and so goes to check on nearby friends where she finds a local gang has moved in. She escapes from them only to run into a stranger she met in the forest the day before. Why is he following her and what does he want?

Lockdown explores the chaos that follows a natural disaster and looks at how people react when tnormal social boundaries are shaken.


What do you do when the lights go out?

There are three stages to a disaster:

  • preparation—planning, training, exercises, etc
  • event—this is when the most lives are at stake and time is off the essence
  • recovery—when efforts are made to restore life to the way it once was.

If you want to prepare for a disaster, there are several web-based games and quizzes that can help you in your efforts. Two of these are:

  • Just For Kids webpage from the government of British Columbia
  • FEMA also has a kids’ page with some excellent tests including one that prints as a graphic novel featuring the Disaster Masters when completed

But these two sites are part of the preparation stage of a disaster. They lead to another question: what are you going to do to amuse yourself after the event has passed? Major disasters often result in damage that can take literally months to repair. That may mean a lot of time without power or your usual activities. If you don’t have a computer to read, a Wii to play with, or phone service to text your friends, let alone a ride to soccer practice, how will you stay busy and avoid the trap of boredom and maybe even depression?

Does your emergency kit contain anything on this list:

  • A book
  • Pen, pencil and paper
  • A small musical instrument
  • A sewing kit
  • A deck of cards or
  • A portable game like you might take on a car trip?

What else might you include for entertainment in case you have to leave home for a few days?


Photo from iStock: Child and mother by Toffic


Is it really that hard?

Recently I read this wonderful story of survival on Steven Pressfield’s site:

Marissa Panigrosso, worked on the 98th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She recalled that when the first plane hit the North Tower on September 11, 2001, a wave of hot air came through her glass windows as intense as opening a pizza oven.

She did not hesitate. She didn’t even pick up her purse, make a phone call or turn off her computer. She walked quickly to the nearest emergency exit, pushed through the door and began the ninety-eight-stairway decent to the ground. What she found curious is that far more people chose to stay right where they were. […]Why would they choose to stay in such a vulnerable place in such an extreme circumstance?

Because they were human beings and human beings find change to be extremely difficult, practically impossible. To leave without being instructed to leave was a risk. What were the chances of another plane hitting their tower, really? And if they did leave, wouldn’t their colleagues think that they were over-reacting, running in fear? They should stay calm and wait for help, maintain an even keel. And that’s what they did. I probably would have too……..by Shawn Coyne

Last month, I failed to respond quickly to a very minor but dramatic change in my surroundings so this article resonated with me.

But one thing I am good at, is preparing for the bleeding obvious. Example: in August the RCMP (aka the Mounties) put on a free performance of their iconic Musical Ride. For those who haven't seen it, the Musical Ride is a display of equestrian skills set to music - dressage meets military drill - that started in the 19th century. With roots in the British calvary tradition, it is now uniquely Canadian. Because of the logistics of transporting all those people, horses, and equipment, it doesn't come to a local neighbourhood very often. 

The performance was scheduled for 6:30 in the evening on a hot summer’s day. Most people could figure out that it would be a popular family event and arrived early. Some even brought their own seating. Good planning. The vast majority of the crowd arrived on that simmering afternoon without hats. Families arrived at 5:30 with toddlers and even infants without food or water. 

Okay I get it that Canada is a cold country so normally we don’t think we need to shield our scalps, skin or eyes from the sun (most doctors would vehemently disagree). But it was summer, one of the driest. The weather was true to forecast that day: hot and sunny. No one had to react to an emergency situation. They just had to plan for known conditions. And they didn’t.

Fortunately the event organizers understood how dependent the general public would be. They handed out free bottles of water. The Mounties distributed a limited supply of cardboard hats that acted as sun visors. The safety net of other people’s preparation provided for them.

That makes me wonder how these people would react to a sudden and dramatic emergency: will they have any food, any water, any first aid supplies? Or will they be looking to others to care for them because they can’t care for themselves? Will they stay in their tower until someone tells it’s time to go? 

How prepared are you to react and survive?


Photo by: Alan Bolitho, LM