Tag Archives: Teen Issues

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 9781250012579, February 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

You know when you were in school and drew hearts all over everything to express your love for a particular thing or person? Well, if I could actually bring myself to write in a book, there would be hearts all over this one.

The Rest of It:

Eleanor, an awkward, “big girl” with crazy red hair, lives at home with her numerous siblings, her mother and her abusive stepfather. She’s poor. Poor enough to learn how to make do with what she has, and often, what she has is very little. Her crazy outfits make her the butt of everyone’s jokes and the morning bus ride to school is made worse by the fact that no one wants to sit next to her.

However, none of this goes unnoticed by Park. Park observes Eleanor from afar, before offering up the seat next to him. Half-Korean and in a circle of his own, Park is not popular, but not unpopular either. He’s able to blend, mostly because he grew up with these kids. There is a degree of respect for him, so once Eleanor accepts the next to him, the atmosphere changes ever so slightly. Hesitant to talk at first, the two bond over comic books. When Park notices that she’s reading his comic books as they lay open in his lap, he begins to bring them just for her. What happens next is nothing short of magic. These two unlikely characters forge a friendship, which eventually becomes love. Through music and comic books, they come together and once Park gets close enough to know Eleanor’s true story, he does everything in his power to save her.

Sometimes, I think the success of a book comes down to how well an author captures a feeling. Reading this book was like living my high school years all over again and I mean that in a good way. Even with all of the teen angst, the high school years are the ones that stick with you. Am I right? Good, bad, ugly. It’s the stuff of memories and that is why I enjoyed this book so much. Rowell’s ability to strip the characters down to their most vulnerable state is what makes this book so readable and probably why the characters felt so real to me.

I loved Eleanor’s awkwardness but I think I loved Park’s pragmatic approach to life even more. And his parents? So awesome. Loving, supportive parents who aren’t perfect. Sure, there was a heavy dose of sap when it came to the romance itself, but that’s how it is when you are young. You can’t wait to see each other and you do nothing but obsess about it until you do. Rowell captures it all beautifully.

One bonus to reading this book is that it’s set in the 80’s and the musical references are like whipped cream added to a sundae. Delightful! I grew up in the 80’s so that entire decade is near and dear to my heart but this book has a little something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
By John Green
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142402511, 2006, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Highly praised, yet failed to deliver in the end.

The Rest of It:

*No Spoilers*

I recently reviewed Green’s latest book, and loved it, so when I saw this one at the library, I immediately snatched it up.

Miles moves from Florida to Alabama to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School. There, he meets his roommate “The Colonel” also known as Chip Martin. Miles wasn’t all that popular at his previous school, in fact…no one really knew he existed so when Chip shows an interest in him, he eases into the friendship knowing that it could disintegrate at any moment. After their brief introduction and receiving the nickname of Pudge (even though Miles is skinny as a rail), Miles is introduced to Alaska Young.

Alaska is witty and beautiful and different from the girls back home but she is also taken. Her college boyfriend is mentioned numerous times but is never seen. This mysterious air is what attracts Miles to her, but it’s also what frustrates him most. Especially when she goes missing and he and Chip are left to figure out what happened.

The story is broken up into two parts, before and after with before being the events leading up to her disappearance, and after, the events that followed it. As a reader, I knew right away that something was going to happen, but I had no idea what. With each chapter breaking it down even further (2 months before, 28 days after, etc), which worked to a degree as I certainly felt the tension build, the end result was not what I had hoped for. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered and to be honest with you, this pissed me off. The structure begs for resolution. You cannot lead a reader down the before/after path and not give them something in return!

My reaction to the ending, affected my overall enjoyment of the book itself. Putting the ending aside, I will say that I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters and the development of Miles over time. He is a likable character and his interactions with the other characters were often entertaining if not, enjoyable. Scores of readers have praised the book for its emotional punch so perhaps its magic was lost on me. After all, I am not a young teen by any stretch of the imagination and that is what this book is geared towards even with its numerous mentions of alcohol and sex.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.