Thursday, June 06, 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is one of those books everyone seems to be reading and discussing. As I admitted on my Armchair BEA introduction video blog, I don't read a ton of YA these days, though it does seem to be on the upswing in my stacks here lately. This book came to my attention mostly through Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made On, and then Heather read it for the April Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. 

I'd previously taken notice of the cover, but after reading the premise, I wasn't entirely sold. It sounded like a fairly straightforward teen romance, and that didn't do much for me. In fact, here's the blurb from B and N...

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
See? A fairly unremarkable blurb, but once I started reading this book and opened my mind a bit, I was immediately pulled in. Eleanor is the new, weird girl in school, and it looks like she'll be tortured on the bus every morning, but Park is "in" with the right crowd just enough to save her from this horrible fate without being a total douchebag himself. He relents and offers her a seat on the bus that first morning, and the rest is a slow unfolding of these characters and their relationship. The awkward silence, the worries about whether six inches of space between them on the bus is enough. The first real breakthrough is when Park realizes Eleanor is reading comic books over his shoulder. Voila! Common ground! And the rest is first love.

The books narration switches back and forth between Eleanor and Park. Sometimes they are long, thoughtful sections, while other times they're short, manic, panicked sections and there might be several switcheroos on a single page.

What really hooked me was the realistic portrayal of these characters. They were quirky, and smart, and observant, and total boneheads at times. Like real teenagers. Or the way I remember it, anyway. The family dynamics for each character also informs their attitudes and approaches to life quite nicely. I worried constantly about Eleanor and her home life. Park's was far better but not without its difficulties.

I might've looked like this when I finished the book.
This book kept me totally invested until the very last page. I was nervous, worried sick, overjoyed (see image above)! And any book that can draw out that much emotion from me is a winner. Truly. Rainbow Rowell is a sensitive, funny, quirky, thoughtful writer, and I can't wait to read more of her stuff. You should also check out her website because it's kinda kickass. I'll just say it. I want to be her friend. BFFs!

Pub. Date: February 2013 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC
ISBN-13: 9781250012579
Source: An ARC that was gifted to me. 

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