Review

Between the Lines

Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult and her teenage daughter, Samantha van Leer, co-author a charming fantasy in which very different worlds collide. When 15-year-old Delilah becomes obsessed with a fairy tale book called Between the Lines that she discovered at the school library, she finds the hero, Prince Oliver, particularly endearing. For one thing, they are each missing a father since Oliver's died and Delilah's left her family. Of course, Delilah would never suspect that Oliver also finds the reader of the book in which he's starring extremely appealing.

"BETWEEN THE LINES won me over immediately with its unique plot and completely believable characters... Pitch-perfect clever dialogue and lots of humor add to readers' enjoyment, and we can't help imagining how much fun mother and daughter had penning this page-turner."

We read snatches of the fairy tale in which Oliver plays his part --- the son of Queen Maureen and the reluctant, rather cowardly hero bent on saving the beautiful princess Seraphima (these chapters each open with a lovely illustration appropriate for an old-time classic fairy tale book). Then we get the real story from Oliver, who informs us that everyone in the book is just playing a part for readers. When the book is closed, each character lives his or her own life. Oliver actually can't tolerate the bubble-headed Seraphima, who he must pretend to love each time a reader opens Between the Lines. When the book is closed, Queen Maureen is not Oliver's mother; instead, she is a pleasant person who enjoys cooking and reading recipes. When Rapscullio, the fairy tale villain, isn't playing his part for readers, he is a nice person who collects butterflies and delights in baking pastry. When Between the Lines is closed, Oliver yearns to escape the plot he is in and the part he must play over and over, every time a person reads the book.

Then one day, when Delilah is escaping her own life (in which she became the least popular person at her school by accidentally maiming a cheerleader) by reading her favorite book, she notices something peculiar about one of the illustrations. Although it definitely wasn't there the last time she looked at the picture, now there appears to be a grid drawn in the sand below Princess Seraphima's gown. It looks like a chessboard. Delilah is shocked, but real life (that is, her mother's insistence that she go on to school) intervenes in her obsession with the strange phenomenon.

At school, she hangs out with her best friend Jules, who passes her unfortunate gossip about Delilah's crush, a vegan they've nicknamed "Soy Boy." Delilah tries to tell Jules about the change in the book illustration, but when she shows her friend the picture, the chessboard has vanished. Delilah is confused, and although she would normally never cut class, she hides out in the gym locker room. Of course, she can't keep away from Between the Lines, and what she finds next is a true shocker. In an illustration of Oliver climbing a cliff wall, two words slowly appear in the rock: "HELP ME." It isn't long before Delilah and Oliver are talking to each other. Each feels a strong attraction to the other, even as they conspire to free Oliver from the book so he can emerge into Delilah's world. Can it be done?

BETWEEN THE LINES won me over immediately with its unique plot and completely believable characters (even the bit part characters within the fairy tale book are quirky and distinctive). Pitch-perfect clever dialogue and lots of humor add to readers' enjoyment, and we can't help imagining how much fun mother and daughter had penning this page-turner. Let's hope this talented duo conspire with more writing projects very soon.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 21, 2012

Between the Lines
Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer