An intriguing examination at the intertwining lives of several people — and the quiet problems we keep to ourselves — is the premise behind 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 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.
Now, you may be wondering — based on the title and that cover — if Read Between the Lines means what you think it means. It does. The one common element that carries over into each individual character’s story is the middle finger, and all it represents. Whether they are on the giving or receiving end of it (or both), that small gesture is the unifying thread that holds this story together.
It’s an intriguing premise, and Knowles tackles it deftly. Part of me wanted a little more from the story — a bigger impact, some great defined moment where everything came together in some perfect resolution. But upon further reflection, I realized that’s not quite the point of the story.
The story is less about a conflict and a resolution; rather, it’s a glimpse into the lives of these people. Their struggles and wishes and dreams and thoughts — and how we keep these things so often to ourselves. We see so many perspectives presented throughout Read Between the Lines, that it’s fascinating to stop and think about who we are as individuals, versus the person we present to the world. What makes us want to flip off another person, and what makes that other person do something to warrant us flipping them off?
A beautifully written and thought-provoking examination of reality and perception, Read Between the Lines is in stores March 10th.