Happy Book Birthday!
I’m so happy to welcome back author and good friend Jo Knowles to celebrate the release of her newest YA. Stay tuned below for a chance to win your own copy!
Nate Granger, unpopular, breaks his middle finger during high school gym class. Thus starts a day where the middle finger plays a part in the lives of students and others in this small town. A former high school student works at a nearby fast food joint, resentful of feeling stuck, taking it out on his neighbor. The neighbor boy, normally quiet, is frustrated by the taunting and steals a driveway paver from the neighbor and decides to use it against him. And so on — each life intertwines in some small or large way. Told is multiple POVs, this novel reveals in a heart-wrenching way how people’s outsides don’t always match their insides. Read Between the Lines prods the reader to do the same – to see what’s in between what is observed. Another outstanding novel by this talented author. I remain a fan!
Spotlight on Jo Knowles:
What was the spark behind the idea of this novel?
Many years ago I was driving with my husband and young son and a man was about to crash into us so my husband honked his horn to warn him. The guy gave us the finger! I was so upset about it, and kept saying to my husband, “Can you believe that guy?” until my husband was like, “You have got to let it go.” But for some reason I couldn’t. The whole incident made me start thinking about how much power we give that gesture, in different ways. But obviously that’s not exactly a book. What happened was, in thinking about how and why we give and get the finger, I also started thinking about the various stereotypes that exist in high school. The jock. The cheerleader. The bully. The dork. You get the picture. And I thought, what if I explored how each of these characters was more than their stereotype? More complex. More human. I picked away at this idea for years. But slowly, each character started coming to life, and then their stories started overlapping, and I could see why one character might see a person one way, but another character might see him or her in a completely different way, and neither would be all that accurate. The more I did this, the more complicated this structure became, but it was also a lot of fun! So I went with it, and after many years of working on it here and there just for fun between projects, the stories all started coming together in an exciting way. And finally I dared to share a draft with my editor, who, thankfully, thought it was a puzzle worth trying to finish.
This novel is quite a departure from your others in that it is not only told in multiple points of view but takes place in the span of one day. What were the particular challenges and joys of writing this way? Did you end up with a favorite character -not necessarily the one you liked the most, but the one who pulled on your heartstrings the most? I personally felt most for Dewey even though I didn’t particularly care for him. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give anything away.
The biggest challenge was to make sure that each scene that was repeated from another character’s point of view matched in terms of what people said and did. I have a notebook filled with timelines and character charts. I’m a totally disorganized person so this was a huge task for me. I’m very grateful for good copyeditors!
I think Dewey is one of my favorites, too! The more I wrote about him, the more I felt for him. I’ve had jobs I felt caged in, and I remember sitting in my car, feeling sick to my stomach before I headed into work, just like Dewey does. Of all the characters, Dewey felt the most trapped to me, and it was hard to put him through that daily grind, and to allow the other characters to see the worst side of him. It was rewarding to give him a moment in the sun, even if very brief. I like to imagine that it fed him, and gave him the strength to get through that job until he was old enough to leave and work with his dad.
One group of friends drive around in a car they call The Great White Beast. I love that! Mostly because when I was in high school, my friends named my car (a white 1965 Chevy Malibu SS) the Great White (as in shark). Did any of your cars have a nickname?
We had an old VW convertible everyone called The Bug. I used to love driving around in that thing with my sister in the summer, blasting The Talking Heads from a boombox because the radio was broken. Everyone knew when the Knowles sisters were driving down the road. I hope we weren’t too obnoxious.
Jo Knowles is the author of Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Her newest book, Read Between The Lines, was called “masterfully woven” in a starred review byKirkus. Some of her awards include two SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book, the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, an American Library Association Notable, Bank Street College’s Best Books for Children (Outstanding Merit), and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Jo has a master’s degree in children’s literature and teaches writing for young adults in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.
To celebrate the release of Jo’s newest novel, I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader. Just follow the rules below:
1. To enter your name in a random drawing, comment on this post. For fun, share if you’ve ever had a nickname for one of your cars.
2. Comment by Saturday, March 14 at midnight EST. Winning name will be announced here on Tuesday, March 17th.
3. Entrants must have a US or Canada mailing address.
Check out the cool t-shirt I bought to celebrate Read Between The Lines:
You can buy your own gear at her shop. If you don’t know what the shirt means, you will once you read the book! You definitely want to read this book!
Good luck and happy reading!
To see past Spotlight interviews, click here.