Read Between the LinesFeaturedHot
The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said. Jo Knowles Read Between the Lines is hands down one of the best books of 2015.
There is always power in words, but often we give even more power to body language and gestures. This entire collection of voices, inspired by an incident Jo Knowles experienced when a man (with two small children in the car) gave her family the finger. It is a silent gesture that holds so much power. But Read Between the Lines explores this unspoken power of one finger and the secrets and hidden emotions that might lay hidden behind it.
The premise behind Read Between the Lines is that we've all been subjected to the one finger salute, whether we were on the receiving end or the one given it. Knowles takes this concept and intricately weaves an entire world around it- highlighting the lives of several high school students. Knowles allows the reader to become immersed into the lives, lies, and secrets of Nathan, Lacy, Dylan, Jack, Grace, Stephen, and Claire among others. Seeing the entire picture through multiple perspectives is key to this novel.
Not everything is as it is seems. These characters are real, their voices unique to their circumstances. At times the characters were brutally honest and others- hiding secrets; not only from their friends and the reader, but also from themselves. Like in life, some people change and grow while others remain stagnant and unchanging. But they share one thing in common-they all are affected by their life choice, by the people they encounter, by events beyond their control, and even by a single finger. It is one of the most authentic sets of voices I have seen in a very long time.
As a reader, you must hold back your own initial gut responses and not made judgments on what you simply see in a few moments or actions. You cannot make judgments based on assumptions. I found myself loving characters, then hating them, and then feeling guilty that I too had jumped to conclusions about who they were as people.– In all truth, even in real life, no one should judge anyone- going back to the old saying, “ Don’t judge a person until you walked a mile in their shoes.”
The entire story centers around a few days in the lives of high school students. It is hard at times to remember that theses characters are in deed fictional. They harken back to people and friends I have known. Each chapter is from a different point of view, yet they all connect. It was fun to read each section and try and guess how each story connected. Read Between the Lines is a riveting book I just couldn’t put down. And at the same time I was sad to say goodbye to all these new people I had just gotten to know. The entire book builds up to the last few pages- it is shocking and left me in complete awe of Jo Knowles and how artfully she crafted this story.
This book leaves me thinking and looking inward as well. It has been a long time since a book has done this. It reminds me that everyone has a story to tell and we don’t always get the whole picture. What we see on the outside- there is probably a lot more going on inside that we cannot even fathom. This book truly changed me- and that makes this read incredible!
I truly believe this is a must read for adults and young adults alike, fans of contemporary fiction, John Green and Rainbow Rowell, will find a kindred spirit in Jo Knowles. Even if contemporary fiction isn’t always your “cup of tea”. Take time and read Read Between the Lines, it is sure to make the top best books of 2015. Read it!
By the end, I felt as if I could hear the voices of all ten characters (yes there are ten), each of them narrating just one day, in one high school. Yet, each story felt universal and I truly believe there is wisdom and understanding waiting for anyone who indulges in this story.
The notion of having ten chapters from ten separate characters seems daunting. Yet, Knowles provides a lovely cast of characters that feel complete. There is a sense of satisfaction as the story plays out and the pieces of the puzzle are revealed. I certainly felt this way, trying to figure out how they all connected.
I absolutely adore a multiple character structure. Usually in a first person narrative, what the character says the reader must take at face value. If they say someone is bad, we believe them. But in this story, each time a character said they didn't like another for x, y, or z reasons, the logic behind the animosity was turned upside down. By the time I got to the other character's chapter I couldn't help but start to see things from their point of view and it led toward a sympathetic response to all ten characters.
Notably, each chapter relies on the next to weave together a complex story of discovery, love, and hope. It's breathtaking. Starting in gym class, it's as if Knowles has summoned the uncomfortable, anxious ghosts of high school's past to give a glimpse into our first character's life. With an injury to the middle finger, this character kicks off a domino effect from one middle finger to another, connecting each character. But it's more than just seeing someone flip the bird (or doing it themselves) that connects these characters. Though they might not always be able to see it, or understand it, each of them is connected by the people they know, the things they've done, and are willing to do. And that's fantastic!
Jo Knowles seems to understand the pain of being misunderstood, the complete loneliness that comes from being in a group of friends who might not really know you. She recognizes the want to be understood and I think it's because that want doesn't ever really go away. There's this heightened need to fit in while roaming youth-filled halls, but it's just the same for everyone. I'm not sure anyone has had the same bullying experience as some of these characters, and maybe the author was never bullied like her characters, but she makes the reader feel as if she understands.
In a world where nobody seems to "get it" this is so profound. She speaks through words and events and characters that might not have been her own experiences in high school, but they are filled with rich emotion and belief that there is something better beyond the landscape of adolescence. I want to believe that hope comes from understanding others as much as one's self. Being able to empathize with people is a true gift, one I'm sure Knowles advocates for each of her fictional friends as well as those of us who exist in the real world.
I started thinking of my own bullies from high school, wondering what their real stories were and even are today. It's taken me a long time to get to this point. But reading this book made me hopeful for others who've been or who might be in a similar situation. If I'd read this back then, I think it might've been easier to let those wounds heal and to move on.
Understanding is something I'm still striving for. Jo Knowles teaches this philosophy of reading between the lines, as referenced by the book's title, and I think it has to do with looking past the surface of what's happening to what's hidden from sight. It's about realizing we don't know everything about everyone and making the effort to try to understand them anyway.
There's something to be said of books that speak to you, but more about those that really make you listen. This was one of those books that made me listen not only to its words, but also to my present self, letting the me from high school know that it gets better. And it does, it really does. I have no doubt that anyone who encounters this book will be changed. Whether you're navigating the hallways of high school right now or simply remembering them, I urge you to pick this book up!
This novel is more a series of stories revolving around not only teens but one teacher. We see and feel the pain of not being accepted as 'good' enough by not only our peers but our parents. Also we feel the shame and embarrassment of how a couple teens live(their mother is a hoarder). Or the confusion that arises from dealing with sexuality. Add to that the teacher who really wanted her high school classes to be more like a modern day TO SIR WITH LOVE but instead they resent her for taking over the class of the former teacher who met with a tragic end.
All of the characters do share one thing: either they or someone else gave them the bird. Their reactions vary but all the stories cumulate into the final story that shows that under all the negativity, defend, and sadness there might be a hidden grain of hope.
I loved the story behind the inspiration for this novel. Who hasn't been flipped off? Knowles takes one crude gesture and spins her magic to create a novel that is sure to resonate and stay with you.
A must read for Knowles fans and those who love engaging, heart-felt stories with realistic characters that give us a glimpse not only into their worlds but our own.