My review of Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park

by Rainbow Rowell

Published February 26, 2013

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

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.

 

To use the popular term today: “Oh, the feels!” I don’t know what took me so long to read this book, but I’m so glad that I got it from the library. I read it in less than a week (instead of reading the books that I am supposed to be reviewing over at The Best Books Ever!)

Eleanor reminded me a lot of myself when I was a teenager: overweight, red headed, and an outsider. However, Eleanor certainly had a much more difficult life than I did. She lives with her mother, alcoholic step-father, and step siblings in a house obviously too small for a family of that size. Her step-father is abusive in ways that I can’t even fathom, and has kicked Eleanor out of the house on one previous occasion. Eleanor has no privacy and no freedom to discover herself during her critical teen years. Then, she meets Park. Park is an outsider too, but one of those outsiders who TRIES to be cool.

What I loved about this book was that Eleanor and Park’s love wasn’t an “insta-romance.” They quietly befriend each other and resist temptation. They sneak around behind her parents’ back, even risk their lives for each other. Eleanor is awkward and unsure, and Park constantly asks himself why he is attracted to someone outside his usual comfort zone. They both know what they’re doing is crazy, but they dare to do it anyway.

I frequently compare this book to the Fault in Our Stars in terms of the romantic elements and emotional impact. In my opinion, it’s certainly written as well as Fault in Our Stars. Both books also dare to take on real-life issues that teens face. Even thought Eleanor and Park takes place in the 1980’s, its themes will resonate with teens today. To me, that’s the best sign of a successful YA novel.

Branching Out

Those who know me well know that I have tried my hand at writing pretty much everything. . . I may be known on the internet as (mostly) a children’s writer and poet, but I’ve been known to write an occasional article for an adult audience as well.

I wrote an article several months ago about my experiences with Pinterest and the “body love” movement, which is becoming a major topic on social media as of late. Immediately, I knew that this was an article that needed to be shared, not kept to myself. So, I submitted it to the Elephant Journal, who, to my surprise, accepted it for publication the same day.

The article has had 1,500 views in the past week, which I think is awesome! Although Elephant is a non-paying market, I’m just happy that the article got published. It’s called Breaking Bad Body Habits Online. Click and check it out, please! Maybe even leave me a comment.😉

Poets and Writers I Have Met

Thanks to being an English major and an MFA student in one of Pittsburgh’s best schools for creative writers, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful poets and authors! Here is a list of my favorite, most inspirational ones.

  • Gerald Stern: Stern was one of the first well-known poets I met, back as an English major at good ole Penn State Altoona. I now live in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh where Stern called his home. :-) 
  • Mark Doty: Doty is just one of the most brilliant poets writing today, hands down. I met him when he held a workshop and reading at Chatham.
  • Katherine Paterson: I met Paterson, author of one of my favorite books as a child (Bridge to Terabithia) when she came to Pittsburgh for a special reading at the library a couple of years ago. I even got her autograph as I stammered about how meeting her was a dream come true!
  • Naomi Shihab Nye: She is both a poet and a children’s writer, so of course I jumped at the chance to take a workshop with her at Chatham. She is also one of the most down-to-earth, funny and encouraging writers I have ever met.
  • Marc Brown: Brown is the author of the Arthur the Aardvark books. Although I didn’t get to actually meet him, I did get to take a limo to see him read

Who would I love to meet? Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has always been on top of that list. I almost got to see him read once, but he had fell ill and had to cancel his appearance. I was so bummed! I would also love to meet my childhood idol, Ann M. Martin. 

Books That Have Changed My Life

I recently wrote a blog entry about the books that I loved as a child. Now, here is a sampling of the books that influenced me as an adult. Now, I’m not shy about admitting that I don’t read a lot of “adult” books these days, so if some of these look a little “YA”-like, forgive me.😉

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 pretty much everything by John Irving

I went through a huge John Irving stage in college. My favorite is probably The Cider House Rules, but I read literally everything by him except for Until I Find You.

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The Scarlet Letter

Hated it in high school, but loved it in college! Also in that category: The Great Gatsby.
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The Help

I read this book before I saw the movie version, and I absolutely loved it. This is probably the last book written for an adult audience that actually blew me away.


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 The Fault in Our Stars

If you haven’t read it, you must! Do it before the movie comes out, because the book is always better than the movie.😉 This book has made pretty much everyone I know cry. It’s an excellent example of the quality young adult books that make me proud to be a YA author.

Smells Like Childhood: The Books That Shaped Me

I have been reading for as long as I can remember. Here are just some of the books I enjoyed as a child. I consider these titles highly influential on my love of both reading and writing.

ImageThe Baby-sitter’s Club Series

 I read all of them. Collected all of them up to #100, including Super Specials and mysteries. I probably read these way too far into my teens years. Absolutely OBSESSED.

ImageThe Goosebumps series

 I also read a ton of these. I have no idea why, since I didn’t find them scary at all. I just laughed at them.😉 Eventually, I graduated to the more “adult” Christopher Pike books.

ImageThe Little House on the Prairie series

 I read all of them, AND I watched the TV show!

ImageA Wrinkle in Time

 This was the first book I ever read that made me want to become a writer. I got so wrapped up in this made-up world and wished that I could write books like that. I am still hoping to publish my own equivalent to this book someday!

ImageThe Giver

This is another book that just blew my young mind to pieces. I still love it. It’s one of the few books that I can read over and over again, and I was so happy I got to teach it while I was student teaching!

ImageWhere the Sidewalk Ends

This book was probably my first introduction to poetry. I was also very fortunate to get to use one of Shel Silverstein’s poems during my student teaching!

What I am Reading in 2014

 

I am tired of “psychological thrillers” and “vampire high schools” and “science fiction masterpieces” and even “teens in dystopian worlds.” I want to read about real teen characters in real-life situations. I want to read the kind of young adult novels that got me hooked as an adult. I am looking for the Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Fault in Our Stars of 2014.

When I am looking for young adult novels to read and/or review, I am often drawn to the ones about previously “taboo” subjects. I want to see the teen protagonist struggle with the issues that real teens face today, and I want him or her to come out a better person at the end. I think it’s important that teens see realistic portrayals of themselves in literature. It makes my heart happy to see novels that talk about cancer, death, drugs, eating disorders, sexuality, etc., in ways that teens can relate to. I also find that I can connect to these types of novels better as an adult, and that they give me good insight into current teen culture, which I can use in my own writing.

Among my reading list for 2014:

Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum (April 18, 2014)- I have been looking for a novel that portrays the struggles of a plus size teen in a non-cliché way for a long time.  I have high hopes for this one. If it doesn’t do it for me, I may have to write one myself!

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (February 11, 2014)- Although not a novel, this collection of essays by transgender teens made my must-read list simply because I have never seen this topic portrayed in young adult literature before, and I think it’s about time that comes to an end.

Picture Me by Lori Weber (March 1, 2014)- Another book that addresses weight issues in teen girls and bullying. This one looks like it has potential as well.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott (January 28, 2014)- A girl deals with her mother being brain dead while maybe finding love. Review of this one coming soon!

Why I write book reviews

I have been writing book reviews for The Best Books Ever for several months now. It’s proven to be a great opportunity for me. Not only do I get to read and review great books, but usually those books are ARCs that have not been released to the public yet! I would never be able to read so many great kids and teen books if I had to pay for them all or wait for them to appear in my local library.

Writing book reviews is a great exercise. It helps me figure out what it is that I value in good books, which helps me in writing my own. It also keeps me on top of the latest crazes and trends in the publishing world, which is always good for authors to do.

Writing for an established website gives me more credibility as a reviewer, and that gets my name out there even more. Although I sometimes take on more books than I can keep up with, I don’t regret my decision to join the ladies over at The Best Books Ever. Why don’t you check us out? We don’t just review books for teens and kids!