Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bookish Goodness: A Jodi Picoult Double Feature!

A typical summer for me is usually pretty busy, what with summer classes and work. This summer is different. I have been taking things a lot slower and have had a lot of time for reading; this makes me very happy. The most recent book that I have read is 'Between the Lines' by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer.

I decided to read this book because its sequel, 'Off the Page', was recommended by Katytastic (an amazing booktuber) and I really can't stand starting a series in the middle (even if the sequel is capable of being read as a standalone). This is the first Jodi Picoult book I have read and, admittedly, starting with one she wrote with a highschooler (even her own daughter) might not have been the best idea. I do like the cover though. The ampersand in the O of Picoult is cute and the design really goes with the story.
Warning: There are spoilers for the book contained in this review.
At first glance, the concept for this story seemed very interesting. Who hasn't thought about their favorite character coming to life? But, while the concept sparked my interest, the story itself fell flat for me.
Despite having several YA themes, such as bullying and romance, they are not resolved at all, which bothered me throughout the story. The only part of the story that even slightly resolved itself was Delilah's fight with Jules and even that wasn't completely resolved. In fact, other than the romance, the more adult themes of this book are just barely mentioned. This led me to feel like the story would have been better suited as a Middle Grade book with the adult themes just left out completely.
Delilah as a main character was also a problem for me. She felt one dimensional and overdramatized. Her relationship with Oliver felt forced and weird as well. I especially disliked (and was severely confused by) her not recognizing him from Edgar at the end. I understand her mistaking Edgar for Oliver the first time because she had just seen him, hadn't heard him speak, and was in shock. But by the second time she had been with Oliver for most of the book and had had time to get to know Edgar. The two were nothing alike, beyond their identical appearance, which would lead me to believe Delilah should have been able to tell the two apart. As a result, Delilah was not relatable and this fact made reading the story rather tedious.
Oliver was also not a very good character. He did have one major flaw; he was not brave. But even his lack of bravery rang hollow as the story went on. He even tries several times to escape the book with barely any qualms or second guesses. And, despite his one great flaw, his character was practically perfect in every way. I get that fairy tale princes are supposed to be perfect, but the whole point of the story was that his "prince" persona was just a character he had to play while the reader was reading the story and that he had a personality and life beyond the story he was written into.

The one bright spot of this book was the illustrations. They were extremely detailed and gorgeous. I loved looking at them as I read because they helped me visual the story as I was going.
Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the book and have rated it 2.75 stars out of 5. I felt that the authors tried too hard to make it YA but didn't try hard enough to make the story flow well or to make the characters relatable.

After reading 'Between the Lines', and disliking it greatly, I thought about taking a break from the series to read something else. In the end though, I decided to jump right in to reading 'Off the Page' by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer.
I have to admit that my expectations for this book were lowered by my opinion of the first book, but they were raised by the fact that the co-author, Samantha Van Leer, has grown from a junior in high school to a sophomore in college (life experience + more writing practice = a better story...I hope). So my expectation level going in to this book rested at a normal, oh-look-a-new-book-I-have-no-idea-what-to-expect level.
Warning: There are spoilers for the book contained in this review.

Okay, I lied. My expectations for this book were still kind of low. As soon as I began reading 'Off the Page', I realized that everything I had a problem with in the first book was still there, along with new problems.
I'll start off by saying that, even though 'Off the Page' was billed as a companion novel to 'Between the Lines', it really needs to be treated as a sequel. The authors do give a quick synopsis of the first book in the beginning of this one, but it is pretty heavy-handed and misses some key parts that are important to 'Off the Page'. I definitely recommend reading them both and in order if you are going to start this series.
As for the characters, I didn't think it was possible, but Delilah was even more annoying
in this book than she was in the first. Her expectation that Oliver would be all hers was a little ridiculous. Of course he's going to make friends at school. Just because you hate your school and can't/won't (I'm still on the fence about whether or not her lack of friends is actually due to the meanness of the school kids [which is undeniable in the case of two or three of the popular kids whose names I forget] or if she has purposefully isolated herself after what she perceives as insurmountably embarrassing events) make friends doesn't mean everyone else is the same. I also didn't like how she reacted to some of the situations she and Oliver found themselves in.

In the case of Oliver, he was once again too perfect. Even when he made mistakes (e.g. the "fairy" incident or the SATs) he came out smelling like a rose with new friends and perfect scores. It almost made reading his part of the story unbearable.

The best part of this book, besides the illustrations which were once again spectacular, was Edgar. This is especially true of his relationship with Jules (although I could do without the love triangle which wasn't fleshed out in the story very well at all). Edgar and Jules are the most relatable characters in the entire book. They react the way I would assume normal people would in their situation. I love how they develop, both as a couple and as individuals, over the course of the story: slowly but surely.

In the end, I liked this book but I didn't love it. I had to give it 3.25 stars out of 5. If there is another book, which is likely given the way 'Off the Page' ended, I will read it to see how Edgar and Jules end up, but I could definitely do without any more Delilah and Oliver.


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