Monday, March 2, 2015

Read Between the Lines, by Jo Knowles

I participated (quietly) in Teacher's Write the past few summers, so I'm always excited to read new novels from any of the hosts - Jo Knowles is one of them.

Read Between the LinesI was certain that I'd love this novel after reading and enjoying Living with Jackie Chan on NetGalley a few summers ago, and I was right!

For readers who like fast-paced action, this isn't really the novel. But, for readers who like a slower-paced novel, more like a character study, this is the book for you! Read Between the Lines really almost read like a mystery. It's told from the points of view of numerous characters who live in the same town - a high school cheerleader, a graduate of the town's high school, that boy's neighbor, a teacher, and others. I found myself throughout the whole novel trying to guess how these various pieces would come together, and was really excited when I figured them out. I couldn't believe how seamlessly Knowles knit together the very different lives of her characters into a cohesive story with a few shared experiences.

A commonality throughout the novel is the middle finger - characters are on both the giving and the receiving end of the finger in nearly every section of the novel, and it has varying degree of emotional context for each character. I didn't realize when I started the novel that that's what the title was about - that's one downside to NetGalley, I didn't see the cover. When you see the cover, you realize that "reading between the lines" in the image would leave the middle finger raised. I thought that was an interesting and current way to link the characters together. It all starts when one of the characters, Nate, breaks his middle finger in P.E. class. The middle finger sightings just increase from there, culminating in the literature teacher's  holding up the "Girl Scout Pledge" to her class, but really telling the students to "read between the lines" as she attempted to gain control of them.

There was some mild language, teenage boys fantasizing about the hot English teacher, and a character who's struggling with his sexuality, but other than that, the novel was pretty tame. I'd recommend it to advanced 8th grade readers and up.

Also Try: Living with Jackie Chan, by Jo Knowles; Fish in a Tree, by Linda Mulally Hunt

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