Off the Page is a stand-alone novel, but also a “companion” to Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s previous novel, Between the Lines. I read Between the Lines back in 2016 and I really enjoyed the light-heartedness of it, but I had so many questions about the fate of Oliver and Delilah! I highly recommend reading Between the Lines before Off the Page as it gives one a deeper and detailed understanding of both the characters and the background. In fact, I don’t think you’d care much about these characters if you haven’t read Between the Lines. In this review, I am going to treat Off the Page as a sequel to Between the Lines.
I wasn’t sure about what they could do with Off the Page after Between the Lines, but I did expect something to go wrong. Something always has to go wrong. A writer from Goodreads explained it perfectly: “this book really is a peek into what happens after ‘Happily Ever After’“. The book begins with Oliver finally being out of the repetitive fairytale that was his life, and Delilah finally has her nose out of that fairytale. They are actually, finally physically together, which was the happily ever after from Between the Lines. It obviously was not as simple as what they had anticipated though. Oliver, who was a prince, needs to play the role of a normal, 21st-century high school student. Meanwhile, Delilah has just realised that by having Oliver out in the real world, he’s not entirely hers. Although we didn’t get to know Edgar very well in Between the Lines, he plays a more prominent role in Off the Page. After all, he did replace Oliver in the fairytale. Edgar is struggling with playing the role of the hero in his new life, and he understandably has a case of homesickness too. However, the book itself was unimpressed and where it started rewriting itself was where life-changing decisions had to be made.
What I didn’t expect was just how emotional, complex and necessary this sequel was. I expected Jodi and Samantha to continue writing about topics such as love and friendship and even jealousy, but I didn’t expect them to tackle some seriously hard topics such as illness and death. We weren’t exposed to that much emotion in Between the Lines, and I think that this is why Off the Page truly grew on me more than its prequel. The way that Delilah had to describe death to the characters in the book, who do not understand permanency, was actually heart-breaking. The way a young person feels and physically reacts to the news of a loved one being ill felt real. The sacrifice of letting go of something great, ultimately giving up a true happily ever after, left me with a lot of questions (I’m talking about Edgar and Jules here).
Having said that, we still get an overdose of the cuteness and fluffiness that was present in Between the Lines. The romance between Delilah and Oliver is enough to get lost in. The references to classic fairytales of princes and princesses, as well as Romeo and Juliet, contribute towards the romance that is present. Off the Page is a lot more physical than Between the Lines, which is obviously due to the fact that Oliver is a three-dimensional being now, so there is an abundance of kisses. The light-heartedness of this young adult novel was very necessary for between the emotionally exhausting novels that I generally torture myself with. I hate to admit it, but I LOVE romance in books and movies. It was also quite funny, especially Seraphina’s fascination with jeans.
I did find myself struggling to believe, or at least imagine, certain parts of the book. It’s obviously not the most realistic story, although a younger me would have totally believed that magic like this could exist, I did have trouble with just how unbelievable some parts were. To be more specific, the way the book sent messages to the real world was hard to picture and understand.
Something that stood out to me was the special way in which this story emphasises the importance of the reader to a book, making Off the Page a bit of a love letter to readers. Here is a quote from the book:
But without a reader, a story is only half complete. It’s like blueprints that never get built; like a swimming pool without water. The foundation’s there, but it’s useless. Without a reader, the words just sit on the page, waiting to come alive in someone’s imagination.
It’s quite difficult to know who owns a story. Is it the writer, who crafted it? The characters, who carry the plot forward? Or you, the reader, who breathes life into them? Or perhaps none of the three can exist without the other. Perhaps without this magical combination, a story would be nothing more than words on a page.
A lot happened in Off the Page. I remember, after reading one-third of the book, I couldn’t believe there was room for two more thirds of information. However, as Joy from Goodreads said: “nothing was out of place“. Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer are such talented writers and, having read many of Picoult’s books before, I expected nothing less than a well-written story. Samantha is actually Jodi’s daughter, and every now and then I couldn’t help imagining how they sat at a table with notes spread out in front of them figuring out what should happen next. If I had to rate this book, I would give it a 4 out of 5, although I can imagine that some people (not me) would loathe a story like this. I can actually see Between the Lines and Off the Page on the big screen. I read If I Stay many years before it became a movie, and I had no idea it would happen- so maybe one day.