Friday, March 21, 2014

Eleanor & Park--Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Pages: 336 p.
Source: Library
Compensation: None

Set in 1986, way before cell phones and texting and email and instant communication, Eleanor & Park tells a heartbreaking love story. Eleanor is the new kid in school; overweight and poor, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Park is a mixed race Asian kid who just wants to fly under the radar and survive school with as little notice as possible. Their relationship begins when Eleanor needs a seat on the school bus and Park is the only one willing to move over. Unlike the majority of YA books these days, Eleanor and Park are not hit with insta-love. At first they barely tolerate each other, then they slowly bond over comic books, and then one day Park holds Eleanor's hand. They fall in love slowly and realistically. They can only see each other at school so each weekend is agonizingly long. Eleanor is so poor she doesn't even have a phone, so they can only talk once when she is babysitting for her father.

Eleanor & Park won the Printz Award (Honor) for YA literature and completely deserves it. The story takes its time so that we are truly invested in each character. Eleanor is not just poor, her stepfather is abusive and controlling and by the end of the novel we are screaming for her to get away. Park's father is a bit hard on him, but supportive and loving. His parents are everything that YA parents often are not--they are present and aware. There are loads of f-bombs and adult language but it makes sense for the story. Teens and those who really remember what it was like to be a teen in love, especially back in the 80s and 90s before instant communication, will gravitate towards this book. Don't pass it up.

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