Eleanor & Park

I’m going to be honest, I was first interested in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell mostly because Rainbow Rowell is just such a name.  Anybody with a name like Rainbow Rowell better be doing something creative for a profession and since she chose writing, who am I to not read her books?  Luckily she is not a hack.  This lady can write a darn good story.  Which only makes me want to meet her more. (I hope she has a colorful personality and wears lots of colorful clothes…but if I ever meet her I won’t complain too much if this weren’t true.  I’d maybe complain a little…just whine inwardly.)

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What Rainbow has written is one of the most honest and truthful stories about teenage love, bullying, feelings, race, self image, self esteem, you name it, it’s somehow flawlessly covered in this book.  Which sometimes feels a bit risqué, but why deny it?  Teens have seen some shit, and Eleanor & Park covers all the nasty stuff and inserts hope and love and support into the rainbow of confusion (see what I did there?).  I was looking up some more about Rainbow Rowell and this book and I found out that a parent group was trying to ban it from a school.  This doesn’t surprise me, but it is disappointing.  Are the parents so blind to what the teenage years actually are?  

This is Young Adult Fiction but the audience that it is supposedly targeting hasn’t quite decided where they stand on the growing up part of life yet.  In some ways this age group is wise beyond their years and are more able to understand big picture things than adults.  They don’t have a lot of “real world experience” building fences around what they can and cannot do.  They are also, for that same reason, pretty child like, and naive.  Here’s where teenage Emma reaches out from the past and whacks early twenties Emma on the head.  How dare I? How. Dare. I.  Well, I’ll tell you how I dare.  I remember being a teen (it was really not long ago…like, I think it was just two days ago.  I’m in a whole new city all of the sudden spending an embarrassing amount of time in coffee shops, and an enviable amount of time in a donut shop…life is strange.) and the one complaint that I, and many other teens I knew, had was why are we told to act like adults and then they treat us like children?  It’s because we’re in the middle.  We don’t know how to act and we’re just independent and grown up enough that parents have no clue what to do with us.  We know more than we should, but not enough.  

The truth is, teenage years aren’t pretty, and that’s not just because puberty is making you break out, it’s because what teenagers want more than anything is to be an adult and when they finally get that, they’re smacked in the face with consequences and responsibilities instead of tons freedom and romance.  It’s tough, and the adjustment period is not always filled with understanding adults that will support you, in fact a lot of the time it’s adults that are the problem.  So the teens unite, they find another weirdo, jock, band geek, cool kid, or nerd to swap war stories with and they hope to learn from each other.

Eleanor & Park is the type of story that plants a seed in a teens head that they’re not alone in their confusion.  That after all the battles there could be an ok ending.  Even if it’s not all freedom and romance…it can still be a little bit of freedom and romance, but, more importantly, it’s survivable.

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