Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Between the Lines

I think that, deep down, many of us want to believe that fairy tales and their values are real.  We want to believe that love conquers all, evil can be vanquished, and magic waits in hidden places.  Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha have created novel that combines the wit of The Princess Bride with the book-hopping zaniness of Jasper Fforde’sThursday Next novels.  Between the Lines is an absolutely charming teen novel that just might make you believe in magic.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.

And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.

Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale.”

While I initially felt that this had a lot in common with Jasper Fforde’s novels, Between the Lines goes a lot further with the concept of bringing a character out of a book.  It’s not so easy to step from the printed page to the real world in this story.  Those difficulties drive a lot of the story, but they don’t feel like a manufactured obstacle; rather, they ring very true, not just in the physics of getting a two dimensional person into our three-dimensional world, but also in what would allow this transition.

Something that I really liked was that this book plays a lot with the concept that a novel is a collaborative effort between writer and reader.  Delilah’s attention and love of the story are what get her past the “barrier” and allow her to actually talk to Oliver.  On the other hand, the author’s intentions when writing the story eventually come into the picture, and quite strongly.  We as readers may feel like a favorite story is ours, but we’re really just sharing it with the author and with readers the world over.

The other concept that really helps drive this book is how readers can lose themselves in a story and feel like characters are real.  I’m guilty of this myself—even as an adult, I’ve had imagined conversations with fictional characters, because sometimes the authors write them so well that I wish that they were real people.  For those of us who use reading as escapism, it’s easy to relate.  Imagine how great it would be if you could sit down and chat with a favorite character!  Delilah gets to do that, and there’s a definite note of wish fulfillment here.

Although this novel is a fairy tale, Delilah is not your typical heroine.  While she’s a “fish out of water” type that is often seen—doesn’t fit in at high school, gets ostracized by her peers—she’s not the “secretly cool” type that gets used so often.  I don’t mean that in a bad way, because what I’m getting at is that Delilah is refreshingly normal.  She isn’t a vampire hunter or the “Chosen One”.  She doesn’t save the world or fight zombies.  She’s just a teenager struggling with some very real problems and finding her own way through life.  The same can be said for Oliver, oddly enough.  He plays the heroic prince, but in reality, he likes chess and squabbles with his best friend.  It’s that down-to-earth feeling that got me really liking these characters.

Oh, and I can’t close this review without mentioning the illustrations.  There are several full color plates in addition to numerous silhouette figures, and they really enhance the story.  You don’t often get illustrations in novels any more, but done right, they can be an integral part of the tale.

Although I got this book from the library, I’m seriously considering getting my own copy in the near future, because I can definitely see revisiting this one.  This is a reader’s novel, one that celebrates the peculiar and satisfying relationship that we can have with a favorite book.  Between the Lines may be a young adult novel, but if you’re an avid reader, you should pick this one up no matter how old you are.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 29, 2013.

Series: n/a
ISBN: 9781451635751
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Teen
Page Count: 368
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Acquired: Borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis branch
Author Website
Read an excerpt