Pretty as a Picture
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1. Marissa struggles with anxiety throughout Pretty as a Picture. Do you think her relationship to her anxiety changes by the end of the novel? Which characters are most important in helping Marissa to see herself differently?

2. Marissa is a true cinephile, so much so that she relies on her encyclopedic knowledge of movies to inform her response to real-life circumstances. What did you think about her relationship to movies and how she often uses them to make sense of tricky situations? Did Marissa’s perspective shine new light on any of your favorite movies?

3. Unreliable narrators are ubiquitous in today’s crime fiction. In contrast, Marissa is presented as remarkably, compulsively honest. Did you ever question the truth behind her presentation of the story?

4. Throughout the novel, the author indicates that there’s a thin line between Hollywood’s egotists and the villains in their movies. At any point, did you suspect Tony Rees as a villain in this story? What clues can you identify that give us insight into how the book will end?

5. Marissa is an immensely talented storyteller—quick-witted, charming, and idiosyncratic, but riddled with severe social anxiety. What parts of her personality did you most relate to?

6. In the face of Isaiah’s real-world logic, Marissa has a dawning realization: Movies are meaningless fantasy with no positive real-world implications. But in the end, she is the one who pieces together the story that solves the crimes. What do you think the author is saying about the power of narrative-building?

7. Pretty as a Picture delves into the complicated intersection of ethics, ambition, and personal taste. The movie Marissa signs onto is helmed by a murderer at worst, and an ethically questionable egomaniac at best. Was Marissa’s decision to work on Tony’s movie questionable from the start, or do you understand where she was coming from in taking the job? What would you do if you were offered a similar opportunity? And on the scale from ethically questionable egomaniac to murderer, where do you draw the line?

8.  Ultimately, in Hollywood as in life, everyone is complicit. Does anyone get out clean in this story?

9. Tony wanted to create the ultimate meta-movie. This is the age of autofiction, after all; authenticity is paramount, and the creators of popular art are expected to be people we can know. How do you think the rise of true crime fits into this movement?

10. Having read about Marissa’s idiosyncrasies and innermost feelings of alienation, do you think that she is any more or less “weird” than anyone else? Did Anjali’s comment at the end about weirdness being a privilege change how you understand either character?



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