Friday, March 18, 2016

Read Between The Lines

Read Between The Lines

by Jo Knowles


Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy cafĂ©, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a "big girl," she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

My thoughts:

A unique novel set in a small town over the course of one day brings readers into the minds of nine teens and one teacher who, may pass each other through the school hallways, but are connected with that common angry gesture of the finger.

Readers will empathize with characters like Nate, who suffers a broken finger in gym class thanks to a bully but upon return from the hospital when he feels empowered by his splint finger — the middle one — and holds it as a weapon.  And on this day the finger —a gesture of power for Nate, or shame for Claire — will appear ten times over the course of the day.  The voices of the characters are at times gritty but are always honest.  Every reader will be able to find a home somewhere in the course of the novel.  Perhaps with the boy who lives with a distant father; the recent graduate who is counting the time before he can move on to his dream job; the brother and sister who are harassed by their neighbour; a gay couple that can’t be out and open; the girl who feels like she’s nobody; the girl struggling to fit in while accepting herself for who she is; or one of the other characters.

Knowles masterfully weaves these narratives together using the middle finger as her anchor. It’s smart and realistic.

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