Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Reviewed by Taylor Beach, Editor-in-Chief
One sentence…that’s all it takes. Jodi Picoult and daughter Samantha Van Leer, in their thrilling modern-day twist of a spectacular fairy tale novel called Between the Lines, understand that one sentence in a book holds enough power to enchant a reader into falling so deeply in love with the plot, the characters, the setting that the words on the piece of paper come to life and alter the reader’s reality forever.
One of the reasons why I absolutely adored Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s novel was the fact that the main character, Delilah, came right out and said, “I’m weird. Everyone says so. I suppose it’s because while other fifteen-year-olds are talking about the best lip gloss and which movie star is hotter, I would rather be curled up with a book.” From this sentence on, I was completely and undeniably hooked on this magical novel because I felt like this quote sums up my love for literature and also the contentment I have towards who I am as a person. I’m sure this sentence relates to many fellow book lovers, artists, and writers out there as well.
I’m one hundred percent positive that every person in this world has felt out of place at some point and time in their life. I call this realization an out-of-body revelation. There have been numerous times where I found myself standing with a group of people I was associated with where something didn’t feel right. I always pushed the vibes away and told myself that this was normal when really I was hiding the real me because I was afraid of what other people thought of me. There is always this moment—a spark, so to speak—where I heard nothing, not a single word that had been said. Everyone in the room was in slow-motion as they carried on with whatever it was that they were doing. And what was I doing?
I watched the realization of every single block of lies I’d been telling myself about how happy I was because I told myself that I’ve found exactly where I was meant to be come crashing to the ground. In that brief and wonderful moment I realized exactly who I was by being in an uncomfortable situation and I told myself I never wanted to feel unwanted again. I found acceptance and love in the characters from my books the same way Delilah did.
While reading Between the Lines I noticed how it captures one unfathomable statement: we always want more. This novel is split between two narrators, Oliver and Delilah, as well as the events that happen on specific page numbers from the fairy tale itself. The two characters come from completely separate worlds; the imaginary world and the real world. Delilah wishes to be free from the chains of a normal and boring society whereas Oliver is going stir-crazy as he is strictly confined to the pages of the fairy tale book he was written into.
In the novel, Oliver is a prince in the elementary fairy tale book Between the Lines. The book fifteen-year-old Delilah becomes obsessed with when she finds it with no barcode in the nonfiction section of her high school’s library. Oliver is trapped in the same role and is compelled to act out the same storyline every time the binding of Between the Lines opens. However, the characters in this fairy tale are not what they seem. Everything changes when Oliver reveals that he is more than just a fictional character to Delilah but a person with individual thoughts and dreams of one day entering the real world. Oliver says, “Just so you know, when they say ‘Once upon a time’ …they’re lying. It’s not once upon a time. It’s not even twice upon a time. It’s hundreds of times, over and over, every time someone opens the pages of this dusty old book.” His only salvation from the tedious routine of the fairy tale he has to live every single day is Delilah.
Delilah reads this fairy tale over and over and over again (to Oliver’s dismay). Oliver looks up at Delilah from all the pictures he’s in on almost all of the pages in the storybook, pictures that us as readers also get the privilege of seeing. He thinks she is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen and when they try to get him out of the book he tells Delilah: “Just in case it…doesn’t work. I want you to know, Delilah. You’ve already been the biggest adventure of my life.” A beautiful love story is made and I wish I could be so lucky as to fall in love with one of my fictional characters and have them fall in love with me right back. But that’s wishful thinking.
Referring back to the wonderful illustrations created by Yvonne Gilbert and Scott M. Fischer it really brought the story to life. Oliver was intensely detailed and well-imagined. Until I read Between the Lines I had never read a young adult book that had illustrations, colored font, and a fluctuation of different fonts all wrapped up in one intricately woven novel. Color is one of the most unique aspects about this book with Oliver’s sections dedicated to a soft blue, Delilah’s narration in a murky green, and the page number chapters of the fairy tale in black. I fell in love with the colored font in this novel because as a writer I, too, change the font color in my stories to add brightness to all the black lettering on my laptop.
Even though our imagination is the most natural, unique, and authentic crayon, marker, colored pencil we have to feel color with, it’s still lovely to see it.
Read the sequel to Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s Between the Lines called Off the Page for more of Delilah and Oliver’s shenanigans with literature!