Books I Love: Eleanor and Park
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I’m admittedly new to reading and (sort of) critiquing young adult fiction. Except for reading (and loving) the Hunger Games trilogy a few years ago, before any of the films came out, and skimming a few of my kids’ books to explain something or help with a school assignment, I had been spending most of my professional time reading and writing about food, fitness, and nutrition—a career I’ve enjoyed for 18 years. Recreational enjoyment of books was the best I could hope for or make time for.
After my mother’s illness last February (you can read all about it here in a post I wrote for U.S. News, Eat + Run –she’s fortunately doing really great now, knock on wood), I lost a little mojo to do what I had been doing and (mostly) really enjoying for almost two decades. (You can check out my BIO here). But after seeing The Fault in Our Stars (frankly, I had no idea who John Green was, nor did I know the movie was based on a bestselling young adult (YA) book), the clouds parted and a bright ray of sunshine came through. I knew I had to try to do something new, to try to do something to affect others in the same way that the movie had affected me. (A girl, or should I say a 45-year-old mother of two, can dream, can’t she?!) Could I try my hand at fiction? Perhaps write a young adult novel? Maybe a screenplay? I became inspired and decided I had to at least entertain the idea of following a new passion.
After reading John Green’s beautiful book, I search for other similar titles to read. I’ve also gone back to school, learning all I can about fiction and am currently working on my first YA novel. And I am SO excited! To add to my learning, I’m reading tons of YA books. Over the last few months, I’ve read more than a dozen of them and I’m fascinated by how different, unique, smart, funny, engrossing many of them are. I’ve chosen them from bestseller lists and recommendations from friends and readers of YA books. (I’m always happy to hear about books you or your teens have loved, so feel free to share your recommendations below if you wish.) I haven’t felt so emotionally invigorated in years, and have decided to share some of my favorite reads in my Stressipes® blog. Eleanor and Park is the first book I’ll cover, so without any spoilers, here goes.
The book is written by the uber talented and prolific Rainbow Rowell (doesn’t her name alone evoke sunshine and happiness?). It was, in a word, WONDERFUL. It starts during the summer of 1986, the time period in which I grew up, which made it extremely relatable, and tells the tale of two teens—Eleanor, described physically as big and awkward, with crazy, curly, bright red hair who was part of a poor, broken family, and Park, a cute, part Asian boy, described (eventually) by Eleanor as “the sun.” They unexpectedly find one another on the school bus, of all places, and learn a lot about themselves in the process during their often turbulent and always challenging teen years.
Anyone who has experienced or has yet to feel the bliss and angst of young and/or first love will likely find this beautifully written story extremely engaging. I know I did! Rowell intertwines her love of comic books and mixtapes to subtly propel and drive this sweet, satisfying, engrossing story that I didn’t want to put down. (I lost sleep for a few days reading it!) Recommended to me by a friend, Eleanor and Park AND Eleanor and Park have stayed with me and I plan to reread it next summer cover to cover because I miss it so much!
In his New York Times Book Review, John Green hit the nail on the head. He said, “Eleanor and Park reminded me just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.” And I couldn’t agree more. It’s that good.
You can learn more about this book and her other work by checking out Rowell’s fantastic website (I enjoyed Fan Girl as well, and plan to read Landline soon). And if you have read Eleanor and Park, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it below.
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