Allen and Unwin (2012)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
Between the Lines is the sort of book you can hold up to people who say, “Print is dead!” and poke your tongue at them. It’s a lovely package (and it should be noted I’m talking about the Australian/New Zealand Allen and Unwin printing), with gorgeous full colour artwork at the chapter breaks, clever silhouette illustrations popping up on the pages, and a variety of font colours and types used to denote point of view in different chapters. It is pretty, and the pictures are worth poring over – it’s great to see publishers investing in the printed book like this, because it is an edge that regular (ie: e-ink) e-readers cannot match.
Delilah is pretty much an outcast at school, and would rather read than anything else. Her new favourite book is one she can’t even tell her best (only) friend about though – it’s a fairytale, and Delilah finds herself very intrigued by the main character, the prince Oliver. Little does she know, Oliver is intrigued by her as well, and yearns to escape the confines of the story for a bigger world outside. But is that even possible?
There’s a lot to like about Between the Lines – as you would expect from a name author like Picoult, the writing is polished and well-paced (barring an unfortunate continuity error regarding the best friend, but otherwise solid!). The idea is an interesting one, although not, as the cover blurb would suggest, completely unique (I’m thinking of Triple Ripple by Brigid Lowry, the Lisa Mantchev Théâtre Illuminata trilogy, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, to name but a few novels that use a similar premise). It was a fun and easy read, for my mind aimed at the lower end of the YA audience range in style.
While I did enjoy the book, the longer I think about it, the more problems I have with it. Delilah is pretty much a “Bella” character – a bit awkward, not quite fitting in, looking for something to sweep her away. And Oliver, the fictional prince of the fairytale, is quite self-centred and, realistically, latches on to Delilah as she is the only reader who has ever been able to hear him – she could have been anyone! Without saying too much about the ending, it was probably the most disappointing aspect of the book, although other readers might be satisfied with how it plays out – it was set up well enough, I just didn’t feel it completed the story well.
In all, Between the Lines probably isn’t strong enough for me as an adult reader, but I have no doubt it will find its audience in the tween reading set.