Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ahh, young love...

Over the past few years I have worked to expand my YA knowledge so I can better assist patrons and better understand what my daughter is currently reading. Not to mention, YA books are awesome! I came across a review a few months back about Rainbow Rowell’s latest release, Eleanor & Park, and I knew it was a must read. Anything that mentions punk rock and love is a must read.
The book takes place over the course of a single school year (really less) in 1986. The story is a love story, a coming-of-age tale, and a bit of a mystery all tied up in a lovely bow. The book captures the awkwardness of the teen years and first love, while also confronting some more serious issues like neglect, abuse, and the misery caused by high school bullies.
Eleanor and Park work hard to transcend the normal teen modus operandi by letting their hearts rule and their embarrassment take a backseat. Big, gangly Eleanor comes “home” after over a year of exile at a family acquaintance’s house to a sad domestic reality and a new school. On the bus she is forced into a seat with Park, half-Korean and quiet for purposes of survival. Park and Eleanor move around each other for weeks without speaking or interacting, but a common interest in comic books and song lyrics eventually pulls them together into a love that is both sweet and unprecedented.
Rowell does a very good job illustrating the survival techniques we all use to make it through a day or to deal with a particular situation. The agony and ecstasy of being a teenager is not lost in this story. Not to mention, her handling of family dynamics and what it means (and feels like) to go without is superb.  Eleanor learns that she is worthy of love. Park learns that he must be open to learning about a person beyond their clothing, hair, or possessions. Also, have your Walkman ready, because you will be inspired to revisit some bands.

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