Warning: Once you start reading Between the Lines, you may find yourself trapped in a novel that will not let you go. Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha van Leer have teamed up to write what is, quite simply, an astonishingly good read. The premise is unusual: your average teenage girl – Delilah – forming an average teenage crush. On Prince Oliver, a character in a fairytale. Ok, maybe not so average after all, as Delilah quickly learns that she can actually hear the fairytale character talking to her.
Instant wake-up call: if she can hear the voice of Prince Oliver, shouldn’t she be just the teensiest bit worried for her sanity? Apparently not, as Oliver finds ways to convince her that he is actually as real as she is, and that whenever the book is closed, all the characters carry on their own lives, only darting back to take their places in the story when the book is opened. My heart aches to believe this, I really wish that it is true, that the characters in my favourite books might have their own existence even when the books are closed.
For Delilah, the story represents everything that she wished she could have. Oliver’s story parallels her own, that they both grew up without a father, at least Oliver’s fairytale character did. That could really blow your mind, that the fairytale characters are just acting out a play and outside of that play they are completely different. And then there is Delilah and Oliver’s growing relationship, which certainly isn’t written into the story. Delilah doesn’t get a lot of support from her mother, who sends her to a specialist to try to “fix” things. Instead, Delilah wants to try to free Oliver from the fairytale and make space for happily ever after … with her. After many efforts, and for us, some hilarity at what eventuates, Delilah grasps at her last slim chance to free Oliver – but instead she winds up meeting more than she bargained for.
The novel is written from three perspectives – that of Delilah and of Oliver, and as well, the fairytale itself is interleaved. This novel has been crafted with great care and love, and you absolutely must buy it as a physical book, because each “voice” has its own font and colour, and the fairytale chapters are all prefaced with a stunning colour illustration. This format is specifically designed for the young adult readers, who might not be ready to read Jodi Picoult’s adult novels.
It is a wonder and a joy to read this book, and even more so when you realise it is the culmination of years of mother-daughter effort, together.
We were excited to have the opportunity to meet Jodi and Samantha at a Meet the Author event recently. You can read about it here.
Available now: Allen & Unwin RRP$24.99