Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles got good reviews from library journals including a starred review from Kirkus, so it was with high hopes that I began reading. I had wanted to read it for a while. I had previously read See You at Harry’s which I thought was pretty good.
Ms. Knowles stated that the idea for the book germinated with an incident in which a driver gave her and her family the ‘middle finger’. It annoyed her even more than it would normally have except that he was in the wrong to begin with. So, as you can guess by the cover art, Read Between the Lines is all about that middle finger.
I will admit that I was somewhat disappointed with the book. It is comprised of several disparate stories that tenuously come together, sort of, in the end. Nate is bullied at school (and at home, to some extent) and in a rough game of dodge ball in gym, he breaks his middle finger and has to wear a splint. Everyone is somewhat jealous that he can give everyone the middle finger without really giving them the middle finger.
Claire is tired of ‘the girls’ and wonders if there is more to life than gossiping about everyone. Dewey bullies his next door neighbors because they are a lot messier than he is. He and his father began being ‘neat’ in hopes that the mother/wife who left them might come back. Now they’re anal about it. But their neighbors don’t mow their lawn and actually the mother is a hoarder. So, of course, Dewey is going to give them the finger.
There are more vignettes along these lines: bullying, giving the fingers, scamming, hopefulness, hopelessness, sexuality, peer pressure, etc. Everything takes place in the course of one day and, as a result, about midway through the book, lives start intersecting. But these intersections and their conclusions, at least to me, were unsatisfying, especially the last one regarding a sexy, new English teacher, Ms. Lindsay.
Ms. Knowles gets her point across and Read Between the Lines would be a good discussion book middle schoolers and young high schoolers.