Friday, May 24, 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park is a love story for readers (like me) who don't usually like romance. Author Rainbow Rowell has reminded me why I keep turning to YA fiction. In no time at all, I was emotionally engaged with her teen misfits, Eleanor and Park. They sit together on the bus on their way to school and bond over their shared interest in comics and alternative music.

The viewpoint alternates between Park and Eleanor and, in the audiobook edition [St Martin's Griffin: 9 hours], narrators Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra take turns. It is an excellent collaboration. (Malhotra also performed Behind the Beautiful Forevers.)

The story is set in the 1980s in Omaha. Eleanor is the new kid in her final year at school. She's a chubby redhead with an unique taste in thrift store clothes. Her stepfather is scary abusive and her large family is dirt poor. Park and his brother are the only Asian kids in their white neighbourhood. He's afraid that being kind will make him a target for bullies. Park's father, an army veteran, also has expectations that Park cannot meet. When Rowell tours to talk about this book, she says she is often asked "Why is Park half Korean?" (Follow the link to learn the answer.)

My heart went out to both of these young people. It broke a little at the end, but in a good way. You know what I mean? It's a fabulous book.

Readalike authors: John Green; KL Going; Mariko Tamaki; Jacqueline Woodson; Sara Zarr.

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