"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. When I say I just finished listening, I mean it. I haven't done anything after the last sentence except open up this blog and begin typing. I don't want the magic to fade in my mind at all before I capture at least a tiny speck of it here. And, because I am so enraptured and enthralled, perhaps you will also capture a tiny speck of the same magic emanating from my computer screen to yours.

Summary:
 Eleanor and Park are two teens who miraculously fall in love after ending up as seatmates on the school bus. Park, a half Korean-American boy, lives with his parents and younger brother. His grandparents live next door. His parents are not only still married but they clearly love each other.  Eleanor, on the other hand, lives with her mom and stepdad Richie. She and her four siblings all share one bedroom and tip-toe around the house trying to not make Richie angry. He is clearly a powder keg ready to blow. The kids can't go live with their biological father because he doesn't want them. They are stuck in a nightmare.

Even though Eleanor and Park become friends, life at this inner city high school in Omaha is difficult for Eleanor. She doesn't look and act like a "normal" teen and she is teased and harassed endlessly by her classmates. Just about the only good thing in her life is Park, and Rowell does an amazing job describing her deepening relationship with him through the words on each page.

Review:
Not wanting to give away any of the plot, my summary doesn't do the book justice. Just suffice it to say it is way better than I am making it sound.

The story is told in two voices in alternating chapters so we get to know, and love, both Eleanor and Park equally. As their relationship develops and deepens we also get to know and appreciate Park's parents, who play an important role in the story. One thing that drives me absolutely crazy  is YA novels where the adults (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) are absent, clueless, or worthless. Eleanor's mom and dad may have been worthless but at least the school counselor and Park's parents were "good guys" and stepped in. The audiobook format is perfect, too, with two voice actors, Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, giving depth and texture to our characters.

Rowell seems to really "get" teenagers. Everything out of the mouths of these teens seemed authentic and true. I wanted to cry as I read it because I suddenly realized that the horror that Eleanor lives in the pages of this book is likely the horror that some of my students are currently actually living.  The dialogue between Park and Eleanor and the surprising way that they treat each other is such an affirmation to the potential within all of us and a testimony of how we should treat one another. There is nothing I don't like about this book, except perhaps the ugliness.  But, of course, without the ugliness we couldn't have the transcendence either.

(I'm still crying a little bit and really should get up and go wash my face and drink a glass of water...Sigh.)

As I was casting about on the web a minute ago looking for more on the book, author, etc. I ran into a NY Times review on the book written by John Green.  Yes, JOHN GREEN, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. His review is way better than mine. Please go and read it.

But first let me say I think anyone who is a teenager, has teenage kids, works with teens, likes YA lit, or is human should read this book.  And I'd recommend that you read it as soon as possible.  My library doesn't have a copy of this book yet but as soon as I make myself presentable, to the bookstore I go to pick up a copy.  I want it available for my readers Monday.  It is the best YA book I've read in 2013, by far.

Here are two quotes from the book.  No spoilers, just hand-holding...
“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.” 
“The first time he'd held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.” ― Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park

6 comments:

  1. Oh, the pressure! I have this one checked out and am not sure if I can get to it before it is due since I have a few others in progress. After reading your review, I really want to read this book....do you think I need to sleep between now and Wednesday?

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    Replies
    1. My advice: put aside other books and read this one as soon as you can. :)

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  2. I have this one on request from the library. I really enjoyed her previous book and am looking forward to this one!

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  3. I did go to a store that has an extensive book section, though not a bookstore and it did not have Eleanor and Park. Sigh. Guess I'll have to order it and wait for it to arrive.

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  4. Wow, this sounds just wonderful. I already wanted to read it after reading a review in BookPage, but now I REALLY want to read it!

    I know what you mean about absent adults in kid lit - my husband used to joke that every kid/teen audio book we listened to started with the parents dying!

    Sue

    Great Books for Kids and Teens

    Book By Book

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  5. A student came to the library yesterday and held up a book without a cover and asked me if I was familiar with "this" book. She held up Elanor and Park and sighed. I sighed back. We both love it.

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