From the cover of Jo Knowles’ Read Between the Lines, you immediately get that the book’s protagonist is working through some issues (like we all are), is probably young, and has a lesson to teach that has nothing to do with what’s in the common core curriculum. Her nail polish is faded. Her cuticles are overgrown. And her palm is against a blank blackboard, the title written in marker across the back of her hand.
You also know she’s trying. After all, she bothered to paint her nails in the first place. In fact, it looks like an old manicure she had professionally done. And she wants to be happy and respected, even if it means pissing people off, hence, the Hunger Games-evocative three-finger salute, and the smiley face on top of the emo-black on her F-you finger.
Turns out, Knowles’ latest novel “follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day” in interconnected stories. The synopsis on Amazon reads:
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 café, 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.