Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pub info: St. Martin's Press / Griffin, 2013; 325 pp
Genre / Audience: contemporary love story / YA
Caveats for Younger Readers: harsh sexual language; mild sexual scenes; drug use
So, I'm not a romance reader. When someone tells me a book falls into the romance genre, I run, not walk, to the nearest bathroom, where I struggle to retain my latest meal. But I'm also the first to admit that when a love story is well done--when it's not just a romance--the result can be extraordinary. (Gone With the Wind. Pride and Prejudice. The Fault in Our Stars. You get it.) So I picked up Eleanor & Park with just that expectation.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.Status: finished 8/19
Let's just say I was not disappointed. Rainbow Rowell manages to tread that careful line of romance fiction without descending into a melodramatic, soppy love story. How does she do it? She creates extraordinary, unique, heart-wrenching characters. Eleanor's family is horrible to an almost Dickensian degree, but so real it makes you cry. Park is the only Asian boy in their high school, but his journey is a completely personal one. No one is a stereotype here, not even the mean girls who bully Eleanor, although those scenes are perhaps the weakest parts of a very strong book. The amazing thing here is Rowell's ability to show us our world through two very different lenses (the book alternates point of view between Eleanor and Park), and also gives us an utterly convincing tale of how they come together. Marvelous. Read it.
Rainbow Rowell is the author of another YA novel, Fangirl (St. Martin's, 2013), as well as Landline, written for adults (St. Martin's, 2014) and Attachments (Dutton, 2011). Currently she's working on yet another novel, and she recently signed a deal with First Second Books to write two graphic novels. I know. She's insane. She also lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.
You can find Rainbow Rowell all over the place. She maintains a fun website and blog here, and she's also on Twitter.
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