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Monday, January 19, 2015

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The author of this delightful book takes the opportunity of her characters sitting through a class on Romeo and Juliet to explain in the most convincing reasoning I've heard why adults want to read about teenagers: because people want to remember what it was like to be young.

Eleanor and Park are a few years older than I was in 1986, but their experiences of school and pop culture were still a blast from the past. The authentic details pull the reader in to intimate scenes where Eleanor and Park meet, on the bus, where clothing, hair, sounds, and fragrances make a difference in the lives of the characters. These small, believable, unbelievably tender moments build up to the sort of frenzied crescendo I can't get enough of. There are no death-defying moments in this book, but in the scale of the story, the climax fits perfectly. The reader feels exactly what each of the characters feels.

The idea to switch points of view was risky, but is helped by the consistency and the label at the top of each switch. I wasn't sure it would work in the long run, but getting both Eleanor's and Park's honest appraisal of their gentle yet star-crossed love ended up being hugely satisfying. I picked this book up  because the description mentioned that the lovers know they're doomed, but still try to keep their love alive against all odds, and a review said that it was great for YA readers who were tired of dystopia. While it could be argued that Eleanor's home life is plenty dystopian, this is indeed an optimistic novel that will please everyone's inner romantic.

Since I've read this novel, I've also learned that there's a movie planned. A huge opportunity for a non-skinny actress and an Asian actor!