Originally, I hadn’t intended to review this book for the blog at all. Not because I thought it was going to be bad, or not worth the time and effort, but simply because I figured I would have said everything I wanted to about the books and the way they’re written after my review of the first book in the series, BETWEEN THE LINES.
Oh I was so very wrong. So very, very wrong.
This book follows the escapades of Oliver and Delilah after the conclusion of BETWEEN THE LINES, as they try to figure out how to make the world work around them, along with Edgar and Jessamyn Jacobs, and the rest of their assorted friends. And while Oliver and Delilah might be in seventh heaven…it appears that someone else in the world–real or fictitious–isn’t.
I don’t want to go into too much detail because I think the joy of this book comes through the experiencing of it. No, it’s still not high fiction or master-class writing, but it’s good, solid storytelling. Picoult has proven herself time and time again with her own books that’s she’s a highly competent writer, and van Leer has taken well after her mother. I know that the books are co-written in some way, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you who wrote what. (I mean, it’d be easy to say “the teenage girl” is written by the teenage girl, and the “prince who talks far too fancy for everyone else around him” as the mother, but honestly, it could be anything.)
I have to (still) admit, I do love Oliver. I love the concept of the book. I love the thought that when the book is closed, there is an element of the characters who still live on. That they have their own ideas and worlds just beyond those paper pages, and that I might never really see them. But I also can say from my own writing that it’s far too easy to believe. I’ve had characters end up miles away from where I intended them to be, but of course, the characters know where they need to be, and how–probably–they ought to get there.
That feeling is the very premise of this book: where is one meant to be, and is the place that feels “right” actually the correct place to be? Is the “good” decision the best one? It’s hard to tell, and particularly where emotions can run as rampant as high school, it’s easy to see everything getting out of control far too quickly. There are quite a few scenes where Oliver says something…not exactly kosher, and I wanted to hide in my jacket until the awkward stopped. (Then again, there is a pretty glorious scene with Seraphima that I nearly fell out of my chair for. If nothing else, that won me over on her–and I didn’t really expect there to be much chance of that.)
We do get to see a nice expanding on the world within the book, and more of what the characters think and feel outside of their set story. Their world has been rocked to the core, and it’s difficult to find a way back to normal…when nothing is really normal anymore. And when each story line really boils down to its core, all of the characters need to determine the same thing: what is really important in life, and what are we willing to give up to have it? Not everyone’s answers are the same, and sometimes, you have to go against one wish to have another. (The end of Edgar’s arc kills my heart so much, but Delilah’s gesture to Jules is really the clincher.)
And as I noted on Twitter when I finished the book, Jessamyn’s final letter to the reader actually made me burst into tears. As a writer myself, it speaks deeply to me, and as a romantic, it gives me hope. It caught me a little by surprise, just suddenly being in tears, but it is what it is. I’m glad to have had it there, and I think it’s a perfect end for the book.
The final letter is what bumps this to the 4/4.5* level, honestly. It’s a lovely book, just as good as the first with even more precious moments, and was a perfect conclusion for the story. It’s solidly a 4* like its predecessor, but that letter…man. That letter.
Thank you, you two, for such a lovely little book.
Rating: **** (Recommended)