Minor spoilers ahead.
Between the Lines breaks out of the story type for which Jodi Picoult is known. Written with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer, Between the Lines is a story for a younger (preteen/teen) audience, ends happily, and does not play with the heartstrings as Picoult is known to do.
Between the Lines follows several narrators and storylines: the “original” fairy tale Between the Lines, written by fictional author Jessamyn Jacobs, of which Prince Oliver is a character who wants to escape his story, and which Delilah McPhee is reading. This is primarily a romance between character and reader—or primarily a writer’s secret dream, where all we’ve ever said about our characters metaphorically is made reality.
The fairy tale plotline that Oliver is acting and Delilah was reading before she heard Oliver jars with the informality of the other two plots and seems a distinct entity. I’m not sure that I would have left it there, though I enjoy the fairy tale about the weaponless prince who saves himself through promises and mishap. It is a story I’d like to read in full. Picoult has here given the bones of the story, but cut all of the journeys between perils and the character development. We are told that Oliver is portrayed in the tale as cowardly, but it does not show. I know Oliver only as his out-of-character self, where he is narrator, and there is he bold, romantic, and desperate.
To differentiate the storylines, Picoult uses different fonts and colors. The colors are surprisingly not distracting, though I cringe to know how much each book costs to publish. However, while it may be a very fanfic-ish plot, the unprofessionalism of Delilah’s sans serif font works against Delilah’s credibility and maturity and in turn the book’s and adds to the jolting difference between the formality of the fairy tale plot and Delilah’s. Unless it was Picoult’s intention to bolster the thought that Delilah might be insane and hallucinating Oliver or perhaps that Oliver is the reality and Delilah the fiction of his insanity and throw the readers a red herring, sans serif was a poor choice.
Sadly, almost all the characters seemed to fill roles more than they leapt off the page, which is especially ironic in a story the triumph of which is the character literally leaping off the page.
I didn’t really see why Oliver should fall for Delilah other than that Delilah is the only one who has heard him yet (“You saw me when I was invisible,” but Princess Mia breaks up with Michael eventually). I think Delilah’s judgment of Oliver is of yet based too much on the role that he hates but has been forced to act. Because of this, I could not enjoy the romance as much as I’d have liked to.
Van Leer is a junior high student now. The story’s execution if not its concept and essence is original and certainly pleasant—what reader hasn’t dreamed that the prince (or someone) will leave the pages to be her boyfriend? What writer hasn’t dreamed of her characters gaining autonomy? It’s a dream, in that way. I’d be willing to give her another try in a few years if she wants to keep it up.
The illustrations and pop culture references are the real stars of this story.
Picoult, Jodi and Samantha Van Leer. Between the Lines. Illus. Yvonne Gilbert and Scott M. Fischer. New York: Simon Pulse/Emily Bestler/Atria-Simon & Schuster, 2012.
This review is not endorsed by Simon Pulse, Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, Inc., Jodi Picoult, or Samantha Van Leer. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.