I fondly remember December 2012. And no, it wasn’t because the Mayan calendar allowed us to live another year. That was when I read Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s Between the Lines in one sitting, enthralled at the adventures of an ordinary girl falling in love with a prince from a fairy tale—a story that has become one of my go-to comfort books. Imagine my surprise and delight when I was casually perusing my local bookstore shelf, and discovered that that book now had a companion (though really, more of a sequel)—Off the Page.
Now that Delilah and Oliver have beat the odds and are finally together, they think the worst is behind them. But the sad truth is that real life can soil the purest of fairy tales; Oliver gains traction at school, leaving Delilah feeling awkward and insecure. All personal problems aside, though, the book from which Oliver escaped is acting up too. It seems the story needs to go back to the way it was before Oliver left, and time is running out for this happy-ever-after to stay that way.
In a way, it was inevitable for Between the Lines to get a sequel: it tries to make heads and tails of fairy tale logic in relation to real life, and so, for us to see what happens after happy-ever-after makes sense. All the fairy tale characters—Frump, Queen Maureen, Captain Crabbe, Orville, Socks, Seraphima, etc.—are back, and they remain as lovable and familiar. If I could spend a day with this cast of characters, I would consider it a marvelous vacation indeed.
But beyond having this delightful cast back in full swing, the book does what a sequel is supposed to do. It ups the stakes, presents larger and more terrifying obstacles to overcome, and adds new layers to its cast. We see more of Jules, Delilah’s best friend, and even find a few surprises from Delilah’s school rival, Allie. It doesn’t feel like a retread of the last book, but it still has fun with putting its characters in unfamiliar situations, making them grow a little bit more.
Both Between the Lines and Off the Page ask many questions about fairy tale logic and our feeble attempts to reconcile it with real life. But each book has a central relationship, and in this case, it is not just Delilah and Oliver. Edgar, Oliver’s real-world counterpart, and his mother Jessamyn, who wrote the fairy tale, have trials and tribulations as well. It’s nice to break away from Delilah and Oliver sometimes to see this new relationship come to the front.
Oddly enough, though, my biggest problem comes from the main couple.
Obviously, for the sake of interest, Delilah and Oliver could not have been a perfect couple for the whole book. But the root of their problems comes from them refusing to have an adult conversation. Oliver makes an innocent mistake, and while Delilah does have good reason for getting mad, they treat it like it could end their whole relationship. It doesn’t get quite as annoying as it could have, but compared to other troubles faced in the book, it feels a little superficial. Maybe it’s because I’m adult reading too much into a teenage relationship.
Despite that one hiccup, the story is still well constructed, and most story beats feel natural and are enjoyable to watch unfold. It is a little heavier in concept and emotion than the first book, but it is natural that a story gets progressively larger and weightier. I think there is room for another sequel, or maybe there are other teenagers who have discovered magical books whose stories haven’t been explored yet…