Between the Lines

writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
Nan­cy Paulsen Books
Pen­guin Young Read­ers, 2018

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Read the first book

Between the Lines

This thought-pro­vok­ing com­pan­ion to Bronx Mas­quer­ade shows the capac­i­ty poet­ry has to express ideas and feel­ings, and con­nect us with our­selves and oth­ers.
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.

Awards and Recognition

  • YALSA Best Fic­tion for Young Adults
  • YALSA Quick Picks for Reluc­tant Young Adult Read­ers 2019


Nik­ki shares two poems from Mar­cel Dixon, one of her favorite char­ac­ters from Between the Lines, a com­pan­ion to Bronx Mas­quer­ade. Thank you to Pen­guin Books for allow­ing me to share these poems!


  Poet­ry pro­vides the medi­um through which these teens express, explore, declare, grow: “when a sto­ry is true, you have to tell it… to write it in a way that will force peo­ple to stop and read it”—and hear and feel it. With Mr. Ward’s “Open Mike Fri­day” fast approach­ing, stu­dents get ready to show­case their rev­e­la­tions-in-verse before a live audi­ence of fam­i­ly and friends—including a few famil­iar Mas­quer­ade poets who return to encour­age and enlight­en. Each will be “stand­ing out, but stand­ing togeth­er.” Let the slam begin. (Shelf Aware­ness, starred review, Ter­ry Hong, Smith­son­ian Book­Drag­on)

Grimes pos­sess­es an extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ty to cre­ate authen­tic char­ac­ters whose sto­ries piece togeth­er to form a beau­ti­ful nar­ra­tive. (School Library Jour­nal, refer­ring to the audio book)

Told in nine voic­es and inter­spersed with poet­ry, Grimes stuns in this com­pan­ion nov­el to The Bronx Mas­quer­ade. The next iter­a­tion of teens in Mr. Ward’s class are learn­ing how to write poet­ry, rhyme, and flow, all the while open­ing up to each oth­er about their var­i­ous strug­gles …. Apt­ly describes inner-city prob­lems, from police dis­crim­i­na­tion to gangs, but the teens are the focal point of the nov­el …. Grimes excels at mak­ing the stu­dents mul­ti­di­men­sion­al and com­plex. This diverse cast’s strong inner con­flict will enhance any book­shelf. (Book­list) 

Grimes adroit­ly orches­trates a cho­rus of emo­tion­al teenage voic­es in this thought-pro­vok­ing com­pan­ion to the Coret­ta Scott King Award–winning Bronx Mas­quer­ade…. While under­scor­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties these teens face, Grimes’s eco­nom­i­cal writ­ing pro­vides glim­mers of hope, show­ing how form­ing bonds of trust and find­ing the courage to speak one’s truth can help ease emo­tion­al pain and bring sal­va­tion. (Pub­lish­ers Weekly)

These com­plex stu­dents use poet­ry to find their truest voic­es and write their own sto­ries … Each char­ac­ter occu­pies his or her own space and no one char­ac­ter or voice monop­o­lizes the sto­ry. The nar­ra­tives of immi­grants, fos­ter chil­dren, fam­i­lies effect­ed by incar­cer­a­tion, and teens taxed with famil­ial bur­dens are thor­ough­ly explored in a thought-pro­vok­ing way. The poems and voic­es are a per­fect blend of the many facets of Amer­i­can teens’ lives. An excel­lent com­pan­ion book that lends itself eas­i­ly to a teacher’s poet­ry unit, this is a great choice for school and pub­lic libraries.” (School Library Jour­nal)

Buy this book:

Read the first book