Friday, March 15, 2013
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Having experienced adolescent first love, there's really nothing poetic about it. It's awkward. All those hormones rushing about and bodies changing. Just a mess. But when you add in social circumstances that heavily weigh the scales to the "sometimes life really hands out bad stuff" side of things, love can get complicated. Eleanor and Park are about as far apart as two people can be in most ways -- except they both are smart and have incredible hearts, with huge capacities, and untapped depths. The gentle unfolding of their friendship and love is a lovely thing to witness. The language of the novel is fluid, beautiful, and laced with imagery that makes the reader stop to pause to absorb it all. The story is told from alternating points of view of Eleanor, large, lumpy, colorful, living in an abusive family situation, and Park, half-Korean, passably popular, into alternative music, part of an close knit extended family.
So much about this book struck home: the whole kids can be really cruel bit, sibling love and sibling rivalry, the awful things people do for love in bad relationships, and the beautiful, heartwarming ones done for love. If you've ever been fat, or short, or skinny, or had the wrong hair, or wore red shoes that the other kids laughed at, or were the new kid, or wore clothes that weren't the current fashion but not because you wanted to or even knew the difference, or were not the usual in any way, you'll be able to identify with "Big Red" as she struggles to find a place in a new school, where the only faces who smile back are those on the edge of the crowd, too.
I seriously loved this book.
Here's a link to a NYT review by John Green. Yes, the same one who broke my heart and made me cry over Hazel and Gus.