Between The Lines

Nikki Grimes

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Books

March 2019

$18.99 AU

216p pb

ISBN: 978-0525515159

fp February 2018

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Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward’s class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it’s about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences. 

Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes is a thought provoking story expressed partially through poetry. This book follows a group of teenagers brought together by their poetry loving English teacher as they learn to communicate and bond through poetry, each of them narrating small parts of the book and giving insights into their lives.

The use of storytelling through both narrative and poetry really complement each other and help to give the reader a deeper understanding of the story. Additionally, the way that the poetry expresses the teen related issues is different to any book that I have read before. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the issues discussed in this book, which include loss of family members, young people taking on adult responsibilities, foster care and homelessness, multicultural families and discovery of identity. This novel would be suitable for ages 13 and up. The layout and the language used in this book make it very easy to follow, therefore it would be suitable to many reading levels. If you liked this book there is another novel also written by Nikki Grimes, Bronx Masquerade, which is based around a similar concept and won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2003.

All up an interesting read and a great introduction into poetry for YA readers.

Chelsea, age 15

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