Zen and the Art of Faking It


Jordan Sonnenblick

Number of Pages: 


Minimum grade level: 


San Lee moves to a new town and a new school, again. At each of his earlier schools he has had a different personality. He has been a skater, a bible thumper, even a rich, preppy kid. He is still deciding what kind of kid he is going to be this time when his teacher starts a unit on Zen Buddhism. He just finished this subject back in Houston so he knows the answers. He lets the other kids believe that he knows because he is some sort of Zen expert. (Being the only Chinese kid in school helps too.) He also meets Woody, the girl of his dreams. They get paired up to do a project on Zen Buddhism which somehow includes basketball and volunteering at a homeless shelter. As the year progresses, San does nothing to dispel the rumors that he is a Zen master. He is also keeps his home life hidden from his new friends at school. And what will happen when the truth comes out at home and at school?

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. San knows that he should tell Woody the truth about himself but he doesn’t. When do you think he should have told her the truth?
  2. San enjoys building up his new identity as a Zen master but he can’t do it alone. Where does he get his Zen words of wisdom?
  3. Have you ever lied about yourself to impress others? What were the consequences? Would you do it again?
  4. San is not speaking with his Dad. Do you think San will forgive him?
  5. Woody has some issues of her own. Do you think changing her name helped her deal with her problems?

If you liked this book, try

  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.