cover image Read Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines

Jo Knowles. Candlewick, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6387-2

Ten interconnected stories set over the course of one day at a small-town high school reveal a well of despair and confusion among the nine students and one teacher whose lives are examined. Beginning with Nate Granger, a bullied freshman whose middle finger is broken by a basketball hurled like a weapon in gym class, each character either delivers or receives the obscene single-digit salute. Knowles (Living with Jackie Chan) catalogues their backstories and charts the way the lives of these cheerleaders, athletes, nerds, and stoners intersect, allowing readers to see a bigger picture than the characters themselves are able to do. The plot device of inserting a raised middle finger into each story wears thin after a while, but the idea of looking past an angry gesture to understand what led to it makes for an empathetic approach to understanding random hostility. Teens who read these stories will likely never see a raised middle finger again without wondering what the story is behind it. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Mar.)