This month’s FYA Book Club selection is The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Check out the discussion questions below! (Slight spoilers ahead.)

P.S. If you’ve already read the book, feel free to add any other discussion questions of your own in the comments!


Kestrel and her father have very different visions of her future. When you were a teen, did your parents have expectations regarding your college or career? And how did you deal with those ideas, especially if you didn’t share them?


1. In YA, it has become common for heroines to be physically as well as mentally adept, but Kestrel would rather play her piano than become a soldier. Were you disappointed?

2. Kestrel is an adept player of the Game, so much so that she ends the conflict between her empire and the Herrani on her oratorical skills alone. Does she have a responsibility to use those skills and the influence that being the Emperor’s daughter in law will garner in furtherance of a more peaceable world?

3. How did you feel about the power balance in Kestrel and Arin’s relationship? Can it ever be overcome, or are they doomed to a life of inequality?

4. Does Kestrel really care for Arin, or do her feelings stem from a desire to “save” him?

5. How do you think guilt affected how Kestrel felt about Arin? And do you think guilt played a part in how Arin treated Kestrel?

6. Kestrel owned Arin, and then Arin overthrew Kestrel’s world. Were you expecting this power shift in their relationship? Do you foresee them ever becoming equals? Can their relationship rise above the dark history between their people?

7. Is Kestrel a traitor? Is Arin?

8. We find out that both the Valorians and Herrani committed atrocities in the war, and the leaders of the uprising use ethically questionable tactics to gain power. Do you find either side sympathetic? Why?

9. What kind of book is The Winner’s Curse? As in, what genre? It doesn’t quite fit fantasy, since there’s no magic or anything, but is it historical fiction if it didn’t take place on Earth?

10. Will you be continuing with this series? If so, what do you hope will happen in the next book, The Winner’s Crime?   

Additional Questions

Check out the official discussion guide here.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.