Entertainment :: Books

Between The Lines

by Kevin Taft
Contributor
Tuesday Jun 26, 2012
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Straying far away from hot-button issues and courtrooms, popular New York Times Bestselling author Jodi Picoult has teamed up with her teenage daughter Samantha Van Leer to pen a magical Young Adult fantasy novel sure to delight and inspire younger readers.

The legend goes that while Picoult was on a book tour, her daughter was daydreaming in class about a Prince trapped inside a fairy tale. She called up her mother and told her she had a great idea for a book and Picoult suggested they write it together. Sitting side by side, mother and daughter crafted Between the Lines - a sometimes familiar, always fun, and often inventive twist on a fairy tale, as well as a love story about the power of books.

Delilah is that girl in school that has her nose in a book and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the student body. Not an ugly girl, she hides behind frumpier clothes and doesn’t put herself out there in order to endear her to her peers. She has a best friend Jules - a goth/punk-type - whose appearance doesn’t really help Delilah’s status as the school weirdo. She lives with her single mother in a typical suburban house with no other siblings. Her one source of true comfort and escape, however, are books - particularly one book that she continually takes out of the school library; a fairy tale called "Between the Lines" written by former mystery writer Jessamyn Jacobs. The story tells of a Prince Oliver who must save the beautiful Princess Seraphima from the evil and scarred Rapscullio. Along with his trusty horse Socks and best dog-friend Frump, Prince Oliver saves the day and he and Seraphima marry on the beach surrounded by fairies and mermaids and a cast of other fairy-tale creatures.

But there’s a twist.

Unbeknownst to Delilah, every time she closes the book, the characters within that book are suddenly able to break character and go about living completely different lives. For example, the evil Rapscullio is actually a kind and talented baker. Socks is a narcissist with body dysmorphia. And Prince Oliver, well, he just wants to get out of the book so he can make his own adventures. You see, only when the book is open does the story of "Between the Lines" take place. When the book is closed, the characters go about doing other things until the book is open once again and they are swiftly sucked onto whatever page the reader is on. There, they continue telling the story. The same way. Every time.

But Prince Oliver wants to figure a way out. And when he absently forgets to erase a chess board he’s drawn into the sand as he and Frump await the call to take their places - Delilah sees the change. She notices the drawing in the book isn’t like it was before. And soon enough, she realizes the book is changing before her eyes.

Before long, Prince Oliver finds himself able to communicate - on page 43 - with Delilah. There, he hangs on the side of a cliff in a particularly exciting adventure sequence that is in mid-action. Surprised Delilah can hear him, the two begin to converse which is when a number of amazing things happen.

1) Delilah understands there is more to this book than meets the eye.

2) Prince Oliver discovers there might be a way out.

3) Deliliah and Prince Oliver begin to fall in love.

Of course, Delilah can’t tell anyone about her discovery or people would think she’s crazy. So she keeps it all hidden. But this just makes her look more crazy. How can you not look a bit nuts when people catch you having a conversation with a children’s book? And how do you explain you are trying to get a fictional character into the real world? Especially a fictional charactrer that you are in love with?

So begins the creative tale of "Between the Lines." It’s best to leave the rest of the story to be discovered by the readers, because the more surprises that aren’t spoiled, the more fun you will have.

The book is written from three perspectives. There are the chapters that tell the story of "Between the Lines" itself. Not the book YOU hold in your hands, mind you- the book Delilah is reading. The second perspective is from Delilah who tells us about her lonely life and her challenge to make Prince Oliver’s wishes come true. Finally, there is Prince Oliver’s side where he talks about wanting to live the life HE wants to live, not the one that has been written for him. It’s a familiar story and one that many teenagers (and adults) will be able to relate to: the wish to escape what seems to be the life you are destined to live, as opposed to the one you so desperately crave to have.

While some of the story elements are familiar tropes of the fairy-tale genre, that’s what makes it fascinating. We ALL know the classic tale of the Prince that has to save the Princess from some evil deformed magician. We’ve read stories that have mischievous mermaids, a trusty heroic steed, and helpful fairies. But it’s when the book closes and we see these characters for the "characters" they really are - well that puts a whole new spin on the familiar.

And therein lays the giddy pleasure.

by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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