Between the lines

…by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Delilah is a teenager. An outcast at school thanks to injuring one of the popular girls. A quiet girl. Whose father walked out on her and her mother years ago. Delilah finds solace in books as that way, you don’t have to live the life you are currently living. However, unlike most teenagers, Delilah seems to have taken a liking to a fairy tale. And what’s more, she seems obsessed with it much to her mother’s dislike. The reason Delilah gets hooked on to this story in the first place is because like her, the main character, Prince Oliver, did not know much of his father either. Her obsession with the book grows as Oliver begins speaking to her.

Oliver is trapped in the fairy tale and wishes to know what life would be like in the outside world. He is unhappy having to play the same role over and over again. Through Delilah, he finally finds a reader he can communicate with. And hopefully, she can help him escape the world of the fairy tale.

What must Delilah have to go through to rescue Oliver?

Does Oliver have his wish come true?

What is it like for characters of a book once the book is closed?

To know all that and much more, you have to read Between the Lines.

This book is unlike Jodi Picoult’s other books mainly because it’s a concept that her daughter came up with and therefore caters to a young adult audience. Hence, as an adult reader, you  need to suspend belief and take the story for what it’s worth. It is a beautiful journey and has its laugh-out-loud moments to heart-stopping ones and on the whole, is like a fairy tale. I thought the concept of characters in a book having a world of their own after the reader stops reading was a brilliant concept! Kudos to Samantha for that! Any avid reader would get hooked on to something like that. For instance, in my case, while reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder about Harry Potter and their world when we shut the book. :)

Samantha Van Leer is a name to watch out for in the future. If at such a young age she could come up with a brilliant concept such as this book, I think we are in for a treat! If you are a Jodi Picoult fan, you should know that it is not like any of her other books so it’s important not to compare this to them. Remember again, it’s for young adults and it is fantasy. It is a book to read to escape and get into another world. I give it a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This was originally posted on my personal blog.

Lone Wolf

…by Jodi Picoult.

Lone Wolf is Jodi Picoult’s latest book. Luke Warren, a man who lived and cares for wolves, is in a car accident with his daughter Cara. The accident leaves him in a coma and Cara with a broken shoulder. His son Edward returns from Thailand at the request of his mother, Georgie (and Luke’s now ex-wife). Cara is praying for a miracle despite the doctors’ prognosis. Edward doesn’t think his father would want to live a life of an invalid given that he has been an adventurous man and thinks they should pull the plug. However, he has been estranged from his father for 6 years…can he really be the one to make a decision? At the same time, Cara, who has lived with her father for 4 years doesn’t really have a say given she is still a minor at 17 years and 9 months.  Now they have to battle it out: should they keep Luke alive or should they let him go?

In true Jodi Picoult style, we get to see the perspectives of almost all the characters including Joe, Georgie’s second husband, Helen, a guardian appointed by the court, and Luke himself in the form of chapters from his book. As always, the reader is torn. Who do you go with? Cara makes a damn good case for her father. But then, Edward’s reasons make sense too. You find yourself sympathising and agreeing with different characters on different instances. The wolves are a metaphor for family as well. And while Luke Warren is a man who understand wolves, you wonder whether he ever understood the importance of family. Picoult makes you have moral dilemmas yet again with her latest installment. When is right to let someone go especially given some people miraculously do recover? Is it right to voluntarily end a person’s life when they aren’t necessarily brain dead and their heart is still beating? All this and so much more makes for a good and interesting read.

I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Sing you home

‘Sing you Home’ is the latest book by Jodi Picoult. It begins with Zoe Baxter, a music therapist by profession and her husband Max Baxter eagerly awaiting the birth of child as Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant. More importantly, she is pregnant this far after a history of fertility problems for the couple leading them to resort to IVF. The IVF journey hasn’t been an easy one for the couple with Zoe miscarrying a few times. However, this time looks different and Zoe is quietly optimistic.

Until tragedy strikes.

Zoe loses her child yet again. And this time, Max decides he can’t go on with this, thus ending their marriage.

As Zoe tries to pick up the pieces of her life, a friendship between her and Vanessa Shaw, a school counsellor she meets through business develops. Slowly this friendship blossoms into love. Yes, same-sex love. To Zoe, her feelings for Vanessa (who she knows is lesbian) come as a surprise initially. But then she realises that it is perfect and meant to be. They get married in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal unlike Rhode Island where they live.

In the mean time, Max has found his peace in the bottom of a bottle. A bottle of alcohol, that is. And then he is saved and finds God. He finds redemption in an evangelical church of which his brother Reid and sister-in-law Liddy are members. The pastor Clive Lincoln welcomes Max with open arms as does his brother.

When Max finds out about Zoe and her ‘lifestyle’, he is shocked. And thinks she is a sinner according to what the Bible says.

Zoe and Vanessa realise that they can have a child as Vanessa has a ‘functioning’ uterus and they have frozen embryos from Zoe and Max’s attempts. So when Zoe approaches Max in order to get his signed consent to give them the embryos, things take a turn for the worse.

Zoe and Vanessa are provided with a lawsuit thanks to Max and his church’s views. The church’s argument is that same-sex couples are an abomination and a child cannot be brought up appropriately in this environment. They also believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and individuals choosing that path need to be saved. And the church representatives will go through any means to ruin Zoe’s and Vanessa’s name for their cause.

Will Zoe ever be able to mother her own flesh and blood?

Will Max succumb to the pressures of the church and sabotage his ex-wife’s life?

Is homosexuality a choice?

What exactly is a traditional family?

All these and so many deeper questions about family, children and same-sex relationships are posed throughout the book. Picoult once again uses her style of narrating the story through the three main characters’ eyes — Zoe, Max and Vanessa. As the reader you are able to empathise with them all equally. Max’s views are not completely right-wing and hence, you can see where he is coming from too. And you are able to empathise with his confusion regarding how a woman he was married to for almost a decade is now married to someone of the same-sex. Picoult also explores the ups and downs of a same-sex relationship and sometimes the turmoil of coming out of the closet. Personally, I was able to relate to Vanessa the most, maybe because of her profession as a school counsellor. On the other hand, I wasn’t a big fan of Zoe’s career as a music therapist and if anything, that was the downside for me in the book. There is a client that Zoe works with and it is a bit disappointing to see the ‘therapy’ for the depressed and suicidal teenager. The characters that play the fanatical church members are portrayed very realistically because they do exist. And you are able to loathe them.

All in all, it’s a book true to Picoult’s style that dissects relationships and moral issues together. And it was probably a lot more personal to her because her oldest son came out of the closet. It was also different to read a book where the main protagonists are gay and not portrayed in a stereotypical or camp manner but rather just like any other couple. Hopefully, it will open up the narrow-minded people’s eyes. And yet, the reality probably is that there will still be those who will support the likes of Pastor Clive.

I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

House Rules

This is Jodi Picoult’s latest offering. House Rules is about Jacob and his family. Jacob is not your neurotypical kid. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Thus, while Jacob’s IQ is in the top one percent, it doesn’t necessarily show in his work, lives in a literal world and struggles socially. 18 year old Jacob lives with his mother Emma and his younger brother Theo. Their father walked out on them when Theo was just a baby because he could apparently not handle Jacob’s diagnosis. Like most children with AS, Jacob has fixed interests…at one time it was dogs, at another it was dinosaurs. At this stage in life, he is obsessed with forensics. Not just the crime shows but the intricacies such as fingerprints and tests and other clues. Jacob also has other quirks. He has his days colour-coded. For instance, he has ‘Blue Fridays’ where clothes he wears are blue, the food he eats has to be blue. If not, he will have a meltdown. To assist with his social skills, Jacob receives tutoring from a university student Jess.

The family are getting on with their life in their own way…Emma taking each day as it comes, Theo withdrawing and feeling resentment at some of the things he has to give up and taking refuge in stranger’s houses pretending he has a ‘normal’ family, and Jacob following his routines day in and day out. Things take a turn for the worse when Jess (Jacob’s tutor) is found dead. While the initial suspect is her extremely possessive and abusive boyfriend, Emma notices Jacob’s rainbow coloured handmade quilt wrapped around Jess’ body as the breaking story is aired on the news. What follows is nothing short of a nightmare for someone with AS. Jacob is taken to the police station where he is tricked into talking about Jess. In his literal world, he says he didn’t mean to do it. Resulting in him being charged with her murder.

How does a person with AS cope with the justice system?

Can a person with AS get a fair trial since to a layperson, this individual who does not show empathy the way most of us do could be mistaken to be a psychopath?

Is AS a disability? Or just a different ability?

Has Jacob really killed Jess? If so, was it in a fit of anger and impulsiveness? If not, who was it? And why did he tamper with the crime scene?

The book is a good read and keeps you hooked till the end. In true Picoult-style, each chapter is narrated by a different character. The characters are all well-drawn and likeable. The star is of course Jacob. Picoult has done her research well when it comes to AS and the theories about causal factors as well as the interventions and management at home and school are quite comprehensive. She manages to educate the lay person about AS and the difficulties as well as the bright side of it. Plus through Jacob’s character, you learn a lot about crimes, forensics and just general trivia which brings a smile to your face.

However, this book is still not as good as some of her other works. The end was a bit anti-climactic for me; possibly because I have become accustomed to her twists in the tale which for some reason did not really happen. Also, while I am no expert in AS, I found some things a bit hard to believe about Jacob. For instance, him setting up the crime scene was a bit ludicrous to me given that he is an intelligent boy. Anyone with that level of intelligence as well as obsession with forensics and crime would know you do not tamper with a crime scene and expect to get away with it. AS or no AS. It was not like it was an impulsive act like some behaviours can be when it comes to AS and therefore I just could not get my head around why he would do that.

I would definitely recommend a read…as I would for most of Picoult’s books. But don’t read it with expectations that it would be equivalent to My Sister’s Keeper or Nineteen Minutes or Picture Perfect.

I give it a 4

Read it to enjoy the ride.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Nineteen Minutes

…by Jodi Picoult.


This is the story about a shooting spree in a high school where a student, Peter, kills 10 and injuries many more. Right from his kindergarten days Peter is bullied by his classmates. His non-athletic build, emotional nature, doesn’t-fit-into-the-popular-crowd character makes him an outcast in the school, giving his classmates every opportunity to take advantage of his sensitivity. Even one of Peter’s best friends, Josie, eventually leaves him behind and joins the popular kids’ crowd. At home, Peter’s constant need to live up to the standards his brother has set builds up intense emotions in him. All this built up tension, from school and home, leads to the 19 minute shooting spree in his school where he kills his fellow classmates and gets arrested for it.

What all events lead to Peter’s gruesome act of taking things under his own hands? Did Peter have psychological disorders? How does this effect Peter’s parents? How does Peter take it after being arrested? How does the victims’ families react? How does Josie, Peter’s one time best friend, hold up when she learns that her boyfriend Matt was one of the victims? Who blames whom for the cruel 19minutes that took people’s lives? Does Peter get convicted?  – all these questions and more are answered in this well crafted story.

This is definitely one very emotionally gripping tale. There is just so many factors as to why one acts a certain way…and that’s very well brought up. I, especially, loved the way the author has weaved how this one incident took a toll on the victims’ and the convict’s parents. Parental emotions are not so easy to put in words…a love so eternal, a love that looks beyond all the flaws, a love that knows no bounds when it comes to caring for the child…all this very well described in the story. Also, all that Peter had to go through right from his childhood, how all that pushed him to do the unthinkable – this was very well written. And of course, the part about being a teenager – how stupid they can be, how they don’t think much about the consequences rather settle for short term content, how detatched they can get from their family – the author has done a good job describing.

The only thing I couldn’t quite come in terms with was Josie’s part on the day of the shooting. As much as I understood the roots of what made her do what she did, I think that the author could’ve dived into the relationship of Matt and Josie a bit more to justify her act. Although light was shed on the negative aspect of Josie-Matt relationship, I didn’t feel like that was enough to have her do something drastic.

Overall, a highly recommended read.

My rating: 4*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

Salem Falls

So here it is. Another book by Jodi Picoult. Salem Falls was published in 2001. The story is about Jack St Bride who is was a teacher. The book begins with Jack being released from jail after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for sexually assaulting one of his students. Of course, despite being released, he now has to register himself as a sex offender. Jack decides to leave his past life and start fresh. He wanders into the town of Salem Falls in New Hampshire. Jack befriends Addie Peabody who owns a diner in the town and washes dishes at her diner. He slowly starts a relationship with Addie. However, the rest of the townsfolk remain suspicious of Jack. He is after all, a stranger. Who tends to keep to himself.

Jack thinks he is beginning to move on with his life. But then, a group of teenage girls turn his life upside down. Since Jack had been wary of teenage girls since his first encounter, he has avoided advances by one of the girls in this group. Only to result in his downfall. Again. One of the girls who was rebuffed, Gillian Duncan, claims that Jack raped her one night in the woods while her 3 friends were present. Jack unfortunately, cannot remember much from that night but maintains his innocence. It doesn’t help that his own lawyer does not believe him. At first. Being a small town, Jack and Addie are subject to abuse. The girls get all the sympathy. But their stories don’t always match.

Does Addie stick with Jack during his trial? Or will it bring back memories that she has tried hard to forget?

Will Jack be convicted all over again?

And what about Gillian Duncan? Will she get away with her lies?

And why does Gillian do this? What deep and dark secrets is she hiding?

The ending will shock you.

The book questions the issue of ‘innocent until proven guilty‘ because for anyone who has been convicted of a sexual offence, it works the other way round: They are assumed guilty until proven innocent.

Picoult also looks at how some women can easily manipulate the system; a bold move in my opinion. The thing is, I’ve seen this for real. I’ve seen manipulative women/teens. And I feel for the innocent men out there that fall into their trap. I’ve seen teenage girls randomly refer to a male teacher who has been too strict as a ‘paedo’ just as an insult! If someone hears it and takes it seriously, what are the consequences for the bloke??

Finally, she looks at people and society in general. How we judge people based on their past. How we judge people based on a few things. And how there are very few of us that may be willing to give an underdog a go.

It is not as emotionally draining as some of Picoult’s other books. And it is a thrilling ride. I rate it a complete 5.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

My Sister’s Keeper

…by Jodi Picoult.

Thanks to Psych Babbler for suggesting the book; I finished reading it in a day. And that must definitely say something about where this review is headed.

My Sister’s Keeper starts off with Anna seeking a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation. Kate, Anna’s elder sister, is diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia when she (Kate) is two years old. Since Kate’s elder brother Jesse doesn’t happen to match to be the donor, their parents decide to have another baby, Anna, who is genetically designed to be a perfect donor for Kate. Right from birth, Anna undergoes numerous medical procedures, from blood transfer to bone morrow, to keep her sister alive. When in her early teens, her parents decide that she would have to donate one of her kidneys to her sister and that is when Anna seeks the help of an attorney to keep her parents from making any medical decisions pertaining her. She claims that she has the right to decide whether or not she wants to donate a kidney to her sister, and that she has decided not to undergo the procedure.

How Anna’s parents react to the lawsuit…how Anna handles the pressures…what a family goes through during times like these…the ethical and moral dilemmas…the psychological effects on Anna and Jesse when the parents focus is mostly on the dying kid, Kate…a mother’s love…a father’s concerns – the author handles all of these and more in this emotional and touching tale.

It took me on a roller-coaster ride right from the beginning. The author presents both the parent’s point of view and the child’s perspective very well. It’s not easy to take sides…at one point I seemed to have the urge to support Anna after reading what she had to say, but then I couldn’t because the parent’s angle was valid too. When Sara and Brian (Anna’s parents) bring forth their side of the story – the difficulties, the dilemmas, the pressures of dealing with a dying child – it put me on a tough spot as to who is right. I guess, sometimes, as the book suggests, there’s no right or wrong. Not everything can be black or white.

The story was gripping. I loved the narrative style – each character gets their chance to voice their story. The twists and turns were more than enough to keep me hooked until I finished the book. The ending came as bit of a shock, but I guess such is life….you can’t have it all.

So, overall I loved reading this book. Highly recommended.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.