cover image Between the Lines

Between the Lines

Nikki Grimes. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-399-24688-3

Grimes adroitly orchestrates a chorus of emotional teenage voices in this thought-provoking companion to the Coretta Scott King Award–winning Bronx Masquerade (2001). A summer has passed since the events of the previous book, and English teacher Mr. Ward has a new crop of culturally diverse students learning the art of poetry. Junior Darrian Lopez, who wants to be a newspaperman someday, is eager to uncover the backgrounds of his classmates. Grimes uses him as a kind of conductor, introducing readers to (and reflecting on the situations of) students whose stories unfold through snippets of conversation, inner monologues, and the poems they compose. Among them are foster child Jenesis, who faces an uncertain future once she turns 18; angry Marcel, whose father has been unjustly incarcerated; and overworked Freddie, caretaker for her alcoholic mother and six-year old niece. While underscoring the difficulties these teens face, Grimes’s economical writing provides glimmers of hope, showing how forming bonds of trust and finding the courage to speak one’s truth can help ease emotional pain and bring salvation. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)