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Watch the Birdie

Jo Knowles's book about a certain type of non-verbal communication invites us to Read Between the Lines. Hey, same to you, pal!

Watch the Birdie

BOOK REPORT for Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

Cover Story: It's Not Funny if I Have to Explain It
Drinking Buddy: Rain Check
Testosterone Level: No Time For Love, Dr. Jones!
Talky Talk: Soap Opera
Bonus Factor: Is That Your Age or Your IQ?
Bromance Status: One Crazy Day

Cover Story: It's Not Funny if I Have to Explain It

In case you don't get the reference, you hold up three fingers and say 'Read Between the Lines.' Since the middle finger gesture figures heavily in this story, it's a very apropos cover. But too bad they didn't have the courage to go all out.

The Deal:

Thirteen hours. Ten different stories. Ten different points of view. An awkward kid who gets his finger broken in gym class. A popular girl who wants to fit in on a deeper level. Two next door neighbor boys ready to have a fist fight over lawn care. Some kids pulling a fake car wreck scam for beer money. A jock struggling over his sexuality. The 'big' girl on the cheerleading squad. A frustrated English teacher.

Just a typical day in the neighborhood, as seen from the perspective of a lot of different people. And they all end up flipping someone off.

Drinking Buddy: Rain Check

Every one of these characters was someone I could potentially care about. Take Granger, the kid who gets his middle finger broken. He has a cute way of referring himself as a 'kcoj', the opposite of a jock. His father is horribly cruel, calling him a fag. His mother was killed by a hit and run driver. When he gets his finger bandaged, he ends up with his hand locked in a permanent 'up yours' gesture, which unexpectedly increases his popularity. He's crushing on Claire, the girl from chapter two.

And then we really don't hear much about him again. Same with all the other people in the book. They appear in later chapters as background characters, but their personal issues are never resolved.

Testosterone Level: No Time For Love, Dr. Jones!

There's a lot of potential for sex and violence here, but every time something seems about to get interesting, we're suddenly in a new character's POV, often in another part of town.

Talky Talk: Soap Opera

Excellent characters and a gripping plot. However, once I started getting to know someone, the chapter would end and they'd become a supporting character in someone else's story. Does Claire keep that homeless woman's dog? Why was Dylan hauling around that paving stone? Does Keith recover from that car accident?

I felt like I'd watched one episode of an especially well-written and fast paced soap opera. As soon as I started caring about people, I lost them forever.

Bonus Factor: Is That Your Age or Your IQ?

So every chapter has one thing in common: someone flips the bird at someone else. Granger, with his busted finger. Claire, getting a harsh lesson in ASL. Dylan, talking with his asshole neighbors. This is one form of communication that we all understand, and I think it's interesting Knowles was able to write a book on that theme.

Bromance Status: One Crazy Day

Like your plot, I read you in only one day (the library was getting on my case about returning you). It all kind of passed in a blur, but in a good way.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor beer for this review (dammit). Read Between the Lines is available now.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.