Print Edition: February 6, 2013
The first time I read a Jodi Picoult novel, I had the same chills I got when I first read John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” which might just be one of the best pieces of literature I have ever set my eyes on.
Between the Lines brings a fairy tale to life – and surely there is a little part in all of us that wants to believe in happily ever after.
Fifteen-year-old Delilah reads books as an escape from her life, but there was something about Between the Lines. It is a children’s fairy tale and although Delilah felt embarrassed about reading it, she admits to herself that she cannot break away from it: “This must be what an addict feels like, I think, trying to fight the pull of one last, quick read. My fingers itch toward the binding, and finally, with a sigh of regret, I just grab the book and open it, hungrily reading the story.”
She believes she shares some kind of bond with the protagonist, Prince Oliver.
To Delilah, it is more than just a book – it is where she belonged. Meanwhile Prince Oliver believes he is stuck in his story and wishes to explore the world outside, but it is beyond his reach. He feels like an intruder in the fairy-tale Between the Lines, and is not quite sure that it is where he should be.
Here’s the twist: after Delilah closes this book, a whole new world opens – the world of the characters.
Prince Oliver no longer has to pretend to be madly in love with Princess Seraphima, the Pirates no longer have to pretend to be mean, Queen Maureen can explore her passion for cooking, Rapscullio can save his villainy act for later and become fully engrossed in painting, baking and collecting butterflies. All these characters can finally take off their masks and frolic. They can expose their true selves which may just be a façade because they conceal it so much they could almost pretend it did not exist.
Prince Oliver lets on “I can’t remember when I first realized that life, as I knew it, wasn’t real.” These masks represent the palisades to their secrets, shielding the lilt of dementia and the fluid dreams that make up the strangers on the inside, and when the stranger on the outside closes the book, all the characters can take them off. They are free to be themselves because no outsider is watching.
It seems like humans never really want what they’ve got; they want what they cannot have, and Picoult’s main characters personify this attribute. By some magical twist of fate, Delilah and Oliver’s worlds stumble into each other. Picoult’s Between the Lines is definitely a wonderful read. After all, “Princes don’t come around every day, and happy endings don’t grow on trees.”