Abomination by Robert Swindells – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are you seeking an engaging, thought-provoking read for your middle school students? Look no further than Robert Swindells’ novel “Abomination”.

This enthralling tale of a young woman’s search for truth and justice in a world filled with secrets allows educators to explore relevant social issues such as relationships, intolerance and power dynamics.

This article overview will provide discussion questions, activities and recommendations on effectively planning sessions before reading “Abomination” in the classroom.

Related: For more, check out our article on Coraline’s Planning Overview  here.

Abomination’s Storyline

“Abomination” is a compelling novel by Robert Swindells. The story revolves around two main characters, Martha and Scott, both outcasts in their school.

Martha’s life is strictly controlled by the Righteous, a religious group that her family is part of. This group is unique in its ways, rejecting modern conveniences like televisions, computers, and cell phones.

As a result, twelve-year-old Martha isn’t allowed to interact with these devices, and her life is isolated from the normal world.

Martha’s home life is far from ideal. Her father is abusive, and hidden in their cellar lives a creature referred to as Abomination.

This creature is actually Martha’s sister Mary’s child, named so due to the shame associated with its birth. Martha’s only solace comes from the postcards she receives from her elder sister, which provide her a sense of sanity amidst her chaotic life.

Scott, on the other hand, becomes Martha’s friend and confidant. He’s also taunted and bullied at school, and through their shared experiences, they form a bond.

Together, they navigate the challenges of their lives while yearning for something more, something beyond the constraints of their current existence.

Throughout the story, Martha endures her oppressive circumstances while hoping for a different way of life.

The book critically examines a religious faction’s extreme practices and their impact on their members, particularly children like Martha.

Robert Swindells’ “Abomination” is a powerful, disturbing thriller that sheds light on themes of religious extremism, abuse, and the power of friendship.

Key Themes In Abomination


The primary theme of Abomination is loyalty – particularly the conflict between loyalty to one’s family and oneself. Martha must decide whether to follow her parent’s wishes or stand up for her beliefs to protect those around her.


The novel also touches upon themes of oppression, as the government has instituted laws that make life difficult for citizens like Martha and her family. Through this theme, the book explores how far people are willing to go to gain freedom from such oppressive forces.


Friendship is another important theme in Abomination. As Martha grows closer to Scott, she realises the importance of someone who understands and can stand beside her when needed.

This theme highlights how friendship can be a powerful force for creating change and helping people find their true selves.

Essential Character’s In Abomination


Martha is the main protagonist in Abomination. She is a twelve-year-old girl raised in a strict religious group called the Brethren.

The novel explores her conflict between following the rules of the Brethren and standing up for her own beliefs.


Scott is a new student at Martha’s school who quickly becomes her friend. He helps her to challenge her beliefs, think critically about them and makes decisions that are true to herself.

Martha’s Parents

Martha’s parents are Brethren members and strongly believe in its teachings and principles. They enforce strict rules on their daughter to uphold their values and traditions, even if it means sacrificing Martha’s happiness and well-being.

Teaching Opportunities

  • Teaching the importance of loyalty and understanding the conflicting beliefs that can arise.
  • Exploring themes of oppression and how it affects everyday life.
  • Understanding the power of friendship to help people find their true selves.
  • Examining how religion can both empower and restrict individuals.
  • Discussing how personal beliefs are formed, challenged, and strengthened over time.
  • Demonstrating the positive effects of standing up for one’s thoughts in the face of adversity.

Lesson Plan 1: Understanding the Power of Friendship


  • To understand and explore the power of friendship in Abomination.
  • To recognise how a friend can help us find our true selves.
  • To consider the impact of loyalty when faced with conflicting pressures.


Explain Abomination’s overall story and structure, including introducing Martha and Scott as characters. Discuss the theme of oppression and its role in the novel.

Main Teaching Points:

Ask students to identify how Martha’s friendship with Scott helps her in her struggles to find her true self.

Discuss loyalty and conflict, considering how beliefs might clash or interact in different situations. Please encourage students to think about their relationships and what it means to be a good friend.


Ask students to reflect on their friendships, identifying lessons they have learned from them similar to those demonstrated in Abomination.

Finally, give time for reflecting on their thoughts, feelings and questions they have identified while discussing the novel.

Key Questions:

  • How do Martha’s beliefs begin to change over time?
  • What is loyalty, and why is it important?
  • How can a friend help someone stand up for what they believe in? How does our sense of loyalty change depending on whom it is towards?

Lesson Plan 2: Exploring Oppression


  • To understand and explore themes of oppression within Abomination.
  • To recognise how oppressive systems restrict individuals’ choices and freedom.
  • Consider ways that oppressive systems can be challenged or resisted by individuals affected by them.


Explain the story arc of Abomination, focusing primarily on how oppression affects Martha’s life within the Brethren family system.

Talk about other forms of oppression, such as racism or sexism, allowing students to draw parallels between these structures and that of religious fundamentalism as explored in the novel.

Main Teaching Points:

Invite students to discuss events throughout Abomination demonstrating how oppressive systems hinder an individual’s free will or personal growth.

Explore the options for challenging or circumventing oppressive systems – theoretically within literature and practically in everyday life (e.g. through protest).

Connect these ideas back to Martha’s experiences throughout the book – emphasising that she could challenge an oppressive system through courage and resilience despite not having access to many external resources that could support her resistance efforts.

Ask students if they could use examples from their own lives where they have found themselves facing similar obstacles/pressure points to those experienced by Martha throughout Abomination – inviting them into a discussion about how oppression works both within fictional contexts mentioned but also real-life contexts too (including looking at stories from history such as civil rights movements).

Connect this topic back again into literary analysis pieces later in a class by asking students – “What would you do if you were one of Abomination’s characters…?” inviting them to make deeper connections between literature & real-life issues which connect with & resonate with them personally (in addition to creating an emotional connection & engagement with literature).


Once all ideas around these topics have been discussed – ask students for their reflections on these ideas – did any resonate more than others?

Did anyone go away feeling clearer on specific issues than before? What did we learn today that may link to future learning objectives discussed throughout your teaching program?

Can links be made between today’s lesson & aspects covered earlier this semester/year/course study level? Etc…

Open up time here for student reflections & further thought processes around this topic contextually relevant and leading potentially off-track conversations too!

Key Questions:

  • Why is it vital for us as individuals & communities to challenge oppressive systems when we encounter them?
  • What was significant about Martha being able to make changes even without access to external resources or support networks helping her during her journey through Abomination?
  • Are there any real-life examples you can think of where people were (and are) engaging in successful resistances against oppressive systems such as those outlined within this book?

Website Resources

The first website, Teachit.co.uk , provides a comprehensive scheme of work for teaching the novel “Abomination” by Robert Swindells to KS3 students. It includes lesson ideas, tips and resources for engaging students in topics such as oppression, loyalty and religion discussed in the book.

The second website, TES provides another scheme of work for teaching “Abomination” to KS3 students. This resource includes a detailed lesson plan with activities, guiding questions and homework tasks focusing on themes such as oppression and loyalty explored in the novel.

The third website, TES, offers a range of worksheets which can be used alongside teaching “Abomination”. These worksheets focus on language techniques used throughout the novel, enabling students to gain insight into these techniques’ effects when applied to the text’s themes, such as oppression and loyalty.

Finally, the fourth website Litdrive provides an introductory chapter guide to “Abomination”. This resource aims to help teachers engage their students in a discussion about this text through guiding questions about characters, symbolism and themes such as diversity and prejudice explored within the book’s narrative structure.


What can teachers do to help their students engage with the novel?

Teachers can create lesson plans and activities that enable students to actively dialogue about themes explored within the novel – oppression, loyalty and religion. Additionally, worksheets and chapter guides are available online, which provide exercises for developing language skills and engaging with discussion topics related to these themes.

What are some example resources for teaching ‘Abomination’?

A range of resources is available online for teaching ‘Abomination’, including schemes of work and worksheets on websites such as Teachit.co.uk and TES.com. There is also a variety of introductory chapter guides available on Litdrive.org.uk as well as other resource collections aimed at helping teachers engage their students in meaningful discussions around topics explored throughout this novel.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






Join our email list to receive the latest updates.

Add your form here