Saturday, March 19, 2016

Off the Page

Volume Twelve in the Books That Matter Series

"...she somehow is able to create a story that is exactly what the reader needs at the moment he or she is reading." -Oliver

Nothing sums up this book better than this bit of reflection from Oliver in Off the Page. Almost as if he is thinking about the two authors, Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, and the way they mastered the art of speaking to a reader. It is for this reason that Off the Page is a book that matters.

Off the Page is the companion book to Between the Lines, the story of a teenage girl obsessed with a fairy tale only to realize the main character in the story is alive and wants out of his book. While Between the Lines deals with the predictability of being stuck in a story with a guaranteed happily ever after ending--even though it is not the one the main character wants, Off the Page deals with the realness of life and all the uncertainties that come with it.

I am a big fan of the television show, Once Upon A Time, so naturally I was drawn to Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer's book, Between the Lines--structured into three different sections that switched between the fairy tale story, Prince Oliver's story when the book was not being read from the point of view of the main character, and Delilah's story from the point of view of the reader in the outside world. I love the full page color illustrations that accompany each fairy tale section, reminding me of Henry's storybook in Once Upon A Time.

After reading Between the Lines, I moved to its companion book, Off the Page. I figured it would be hard to beat the first book but I was pleasantly surprised. The second book far exceeded my expectations. In an effort to not give too much away, Off the Page centers on what happens when life is not dictated by written words. There is so much freedom, so many choices, and so much to experience but as Oliver thinks: "There's a moment when you realize you have gotten everything you wish for. And right on its heels is the understanding that this means you have so much more to lose."

Just like in Once Upon A Time, and in so many fairy tales, there is a strong message of hope. With so much to lose, there has to be a reason to not stop in the face of fear. And of course, as one character reflects, that reason is: "hope." And yet, I think Oliver's reflection is so observant when he realizes: "...desperation and hope are twins, merely altered versions of each other."

In the real world, there is no guarantee for a happily ever after. Loss is at the heart of this story and it came to me at a time when I needed to read it. This story truly spoke to me, not the way in which Delilah experiences, but in the way Oliver reflects: "What one person takes away from a book might be different from what the next person takes away--almost as if the story is altered depending on who's reading, where, and when. Maybe all books are like that--a little different each time they are opened. The real question is who's doing the changing: the story, or the reader."

This book is not just for someone who likes fairy tales. It is for all authors, illustrators, and anyone who enjoys the creative process. As a writer, I often question my work. Is it good enough? Do I have something worth saying that is not already out there? And as I read Off the Page, I felt like the characters were speaking directly to me, answering these questions. People need books. And in the words of one character: "Everyone has a story." Thank you Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, for writing this one. Off the Page is a book that matters.