Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles's revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.
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 caf, 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.
Jo Knowles is the author of Jumping Off Swings and its sequel, Living with Jackie Chan, as well as See You at Harry's. She lives in Vermont with her family.
The book proceeds, each new character entering, with his/her realities, dreams and secrets becoming another masterfully woven thread. With emotional explorations and dialogue so authentic, one might think Knowles isn't creating but channeling the adolescent mind. A fascinating study of misperceptions, consequences and the teen condition.
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Achingly truthful... The short story format could tempt reluctant readers, and many young adults will see shadows of themselves in the well-drawn characters. Hand this one to fans of dramatic realistic fiction and those who enjoy slice-of-life novels.
-School Library Journal
The idea of looking past an angry gesture to understand what led to it makes for an empathetic approach to understanding random hostility. Teens who read these stories will likely never see a raised middle finger again without wondering what the story is behind it
Each (story) can be read and appreciated in isolation, but readers will enjoy piecing together the stories and the accompanying relationships.
This is likely to speak to any teenager (or adult) in a stage of transition
The stories are all skillfully written ... may cause readers to think twice about the sentiment behind that sign.
-Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This is a poignant read that will leave readers thinking.
-School library Connection
These interconnected stories create a powerful, complex whole.
-The Horn Book