After polishing off the Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (which wasn’t bad, but not Odd-Shelf-Review-Worthy), I stared Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, another Old Shelf soon-to-be-conquest.
And I gotta say, I really loved it. YA romance is not usually my thing. Probably because I’ve reeeeead way too much of it. It’s lost its magic, at least in my case. But this was like discovering a tickly love story all over again.
So, what’s up with this book?
I’m stealing John Green’s description because he says it better:
“Eleanor is a “big girl” with bright red hair (kids on the bus call her Big Red, and she describes herself as resembling a barmaid) who has just returned to her home in Omaha, after being kicked out for a year and forced to stay with acquaintances. Every moment Eleanor is home is terrifying and claustrophobic — she shares a room with a mess of siblings and lives in constant fear of offending her abusive alcoholic stepfather, Richie. She’s also poor — she cannot afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman. (Some readers may initially find this unrealistic, but through the novel one comes to have a better understanding of how poverty interacts with abuse to marginalize and oppress.)
Park is a half-Korean kid who’s passably popular but separated from the larger social order of his school both by his race and by his passion for comic books and good music. On the first day of school, Eleanor sits down next to him on the bus. Over time, she begins reading his comics over his shoulder. Then he lends them to her. They bond over music. Eventually, they begin holding hands on the rides to and from school.”
It’s a sweet, short read that makes you remember your first crush, however and whenever that might have been. And it’s innocent, in a way. Two-thirds of the way through the book, when Park realizes they’ve only touched north of the chin and south of the wrists, I felt as flabbergasted as he does.
Why I like it as a writer:
It’s fresh and unconventional. Eleanor and Park don’t have to battle for their love in the supernatural, paranormal way that’s currently popular. It’s simply enough that she’s a poor, bigger red-head and he’s Asian and likes to wear eyeliner sometimes. Rowell hits on points that make you say “of course” while saying them in a new way.
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat.”
“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
“I want everyone to meet you. You’re my favorite person of all time.”
“…I love your name. I don’t want to cheat myself out of a single syllable.”
Why some people might not like it:
Sometimes people don’t care for this simplistic focus or a slower-paced story. Some people don’t like reading about teenagers. But really THAT IS THE ONLY REASON I CAN THINK OF.
After I finished I read Attachments (her first novel, for adults) and it was equally good. Sophie Kinsella except not so unbelievable/shallow. (With more sweet love zingers, like THIS ONE: “I’d know you in the dark,” he said. “From a thousand miles away. There’s nothing you could become that I haven’t already fallen in love with.”) And then I browsed Rainbow Rowell’s author page and I wish she could be my friend in real life. I hope she never stops writing.