This week’s WANA Friday topic is to write about book I’ve recently read that impacted me in some way. I’ve just finished reading an incredibly sweet, fantastically penned YA novel, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.
From Goodreads: “Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.”
Told in alternating chapters between Eleanor’s and Park’s third person point of view, you’re treated to the different perspectives on the unfolding relationship between them. I didn’t realize the novel was structured this way when I picked it up, but I especially loved seeing how another author (successfully) pulled off this kind of narrative since I’m in the process of editing my YA novel, which is also told in alternating boy-girl chapters.
Here’s one of my favorite parts of the book:
(Park and Eleanor first meet on the school bus. Early on in their budding relationship, he loaned her his Walkman because she couldn’t afford one of her own to listen to a mix tape he’d made her of The Smiths and other bands .):
“Did you like it?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Oh my God. It was… just, like–,” She spread out all her fingers. “–so awesome.”
“Are you being sarcastic? I can’t tell.”
She looked up at his face, even though she knew how that was going to feel, like someone was hooking her insides out through her chest. “No. It was awesome. I didn’t want to stop listening. That one song– is it ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’?”
“Yeah, Joy Division.”
“Oh my God, that’s the best beginning to a song ever.”
He imitated the guitar and the drums.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said. “I just wanted to listen to those three seconds over and over.”
“You could have.” His eyes were smiling, his mouth only sort of.
“I didn’t want to waste the batteries,” she said.
That night, Park made a tape with the Joy Division song on it, over and over again.
He emptied all his handheld video games and Josh’s remote control cars, and called his grandma to tell her that all he wanted for his birthday in November was AA batteries.
I’ll freely admit I swooned a little after reading that.
And then there’s this quote:
“I miss you, Eleanor. I want to be with you all the time. You’re the smartest girl I’ve ever met, and the funniest, and everything you do surprises me. And I wish I could say that those are the reasons I like you, because that would make me sound like a really evolved human being … But I think it’s got as much to do with your hair being red and your hands being soft … and the fact that you smell like homemade birthday cake.”
And finally, this one:
“The first time he’d held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.”
O.k, one more, just after Park held her hand for the first time:
“All through first and second and third hour, Eleanor rubbed her palm. Nothing happened.
How could it be possible that there were that many nerve endings all in one place?
And were they always there, or did they just flip on wherever they felt like it? Because, if they were always there, how did she manage to turn doorknobs without fainting?
Maybe this was why so many people said it felt better to drive a stick shift.”
Clearly, I could go on and on, but I won’t. I don’t want to deny any of you the pleasure of discovering others on your own.
So, what is it about Eleanor and Park that impacted me so deeply?
I was in high school in 1986, so I instantly connected with the setting and the cultural references. But there’s more to it than that. This book also reached me on a much more profound level, namely drawing out the stubbornly persistent, hopeless romantic I tend to keep buried deep within me. The succinct, yet powerfully real and tender prose crafted by Rainbow Rowell was so moving for me in a way that few books can accomplish. It also left me with a ridiculous amount of writer envy that later became motivation to continue working on my own writing.
Maybe this book met me at the exact time I was ready to meet it. Maybe the plot and the theme found me when I was most open to hearing its message. Maybe Ms. Rowell’s words discovered me at the moment I was craving a new writing inspiration.
Maybe it’s all of the above.
Regardless, I can’t recommend this book enough. For the closeted hopeless romantics. For those who went to high school in the 80’s. For those who enjoy a great YA read. For the writers wanting to read an incredibly well-crafted book. For anyone wanting to read a damn good story.
You can snag your own copy of Eleanor and Park here on Amazon.
Be sure to check out these other WANA Friday posts: (more to be added as they’re written)
How about you, bookish readers? Has anyone else read Eleanor and Park? How about a recent read that evoked a strong reaction, either positive or negative? Sit, sip, and spill the beans. I always love to hear from you.