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Eleanor and Park

March 31, 2014

Last week was a good week, with both kids home for spring break.

Walker received and greatly appreciated a giant squid, sewed by Freshhell‘s daughter, as one of his birthday presents. photo-271As another part of the celebration, we took him to play lazer tag, which was as fun as I remembered it from the last time Ron and I played, 25 years ago. We all watched the Veronica Mars movie for a second time (as Kickstarter backers, we got a download) and found it immensely satisfying. There were two birthday cakes and one game of telephone pictionary that culminated in drawings of Kermit in chains.

One day Eleanor and I had time to walk around a Barnes and Noble in Columbus, and I succumbed to the temptation to buy two Rainbow Rowell books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, so we could read them together (and because one of them had her name in the title).  As it turned out, though, Eleanor had such a pile of good books for her luggage (among them some of my favorites from college–Bill, The Galactic Hero and What Entropy Means To Me) that she didn’t end up taking back either of the Rowell books, so I started reading Eleanor & Park and finished it very quickly, as it’s both easy to read and a compelling Young Adult story.

Eleanor and Park are in high school. They seem an unlikely couple, but they fall in love. There are wonderful moments; I particularly enjoyed the one when one of their teachers assigns them the memorization of a poem:  “Brains love poetry. It’s sticky stuff.”

I like the way Eleanor never tells anyone why she dresses the way she does, especially when her father asks “is that what all the cool kids are wearing these days?” and she “looked down at her giant white shirt, her fat paisley tie, and her half-dead purple corduroys to say ‘yup….This is pretty much our uniform.'”

There are a few nice moments of teenage realization for Park, who “thought he was over caring what people thought about him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself.”

Lovely as it was to have both kids home for a week, there were a couple of times when I had to remember that my kids are not all the way grown up. Reading Eleanor & Park was a good reminder of that, because both of the title characters had good hearts but young heads. And it ends happily.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2014 12:20 am

    I also read that one first of Rowell’s books, because of the Eleanor in the title! 🙂

    Currently waiting for Fangirl from the library….

    • March 31, 2014 11:10 am

      Yes, us mothers of Eleanors are probably unduly influenced by seeing the name in a title. Of course, I started loving the name after reading every book I’ve ever seen about Eleanor of Acquitaine.

  2. March 31, 2014 8:05 am

    Danny and the Dinosaur. That’s one we’ve read for the name. 🙂

    This sounds like a fun read, actually. Not that I can imagine picking it up anytime in the next 2 months…

    • March 31, 2014 11:10 am

      Oh, of course! Luckily Danny and the Dinosaur is a good book!
      As Nancy says below, I find YA soothing in times of busyness and stress.

  3. March 31, 2014 10:46 am

    Did you think the ending was happy? Happy-ish, maybe. I liked Eleanor and Park so much more than I thought I would; I think Rainbow Rowell’s name imbued me with skepticism about her writing. Entirely unjustified, it was.

    I got two new YA books for my birthday – Brenna Yovanoff’s new Paper Valentine, and Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I love YAs when my life is stressful – there’s something deeply soothing about seeing reflections of your own stress in the lives of attractive young protagonists whose lives are full of redemptive possibilities and re-imaginings of themselves. Plus, everything generally ends on a hopeful note.

    • March 31, 2014 11:13 am

      I DID think the ending was happy. What else could those three words be?
      And yes, when I asked a store clerk for help in finding Fangirl, he started in making fun of the author’s name and I said she was probably a second-generation hippie.
      Also yes, I do like YA–and so does Eleanor, now–when life is busy and it’s fun to read something fast and usually pretty upbeat.
      I saw some kind of comic on FB the other day about “remember how you thought that when you grew up you could do what you wanted when you wanted?” Reading YA is a bit like that.

  4. March 31, 2014 1:24 pm

    I’ve always had a soft spot for YA. Hope I always do. This is definitely pre-YA, and my name was not in the title it, but I think it was the name of the main character, and it popped into my head from WAY the heck back. A pleasant memory!

    • April 1, 2014 8:28 am

      I think we do sometimes associate names with the first place we read them–any Frances you met in your life probably had to compete with this first idea of what a person named Frances is like! I’ve still never met a person named Hans (the villain in Die Hard doesn’t count), so Hans Brinker is still my idea of what a person named that is like.

  5. March 31, 2014 4:01 pm

    I really liked Eleanor & Park! I listened to Fangirl on audio in January and also loved it. I hope you continue to enjoy her books.

    • April 1, 2014 8:31 am

      You are one of the people who convinced me about Eleanor & Park. The hype itself was a little off-putting, but I’m glad I finally followed the crowd.

  6. March 31, 2014 8:11 pm

    “Brains love poetry. It’s sticky stuff.” — Hahahah, yes. I have been thinking about that a lot ever since I read the book. Every time I say an aphorism that rhymes, I think of “brains love poetry, it’s sticky stuff”. True, true, true facts.

    I love the name Eleanor, also. Queen Eleanor was so cool.

    • April 1, 2014 8:35 am

      It is sticky stuff. Bits of it stick without my even knowing it, and then I think of those bits at odd times!
      I’m always glad to hear that other people love the name Eleanor. I think it’s the prettiest name ever.

  7. April 1, 2014 8:56 am

    Lovely post.
    But I’m pretty sure my mother never read Stephen King’s Carrie. But then, she might have and just not told me.

    • April 1, 2014 9:12 am

      Or it didn’t come at an impressionable time in her life. I don’t associate Eleanor Roosevelt or Eleanor Rigby with the name because I already thought of it as the Queen of Acquitaine and the flower of Lorien.

  8. April 1, 2014 4:36 pm

    That is a most excellent giant squid!

    • April 3, 2014 4:04 pm

      Isn’t it? I considerately informed Walker that he could leave it at our house if he didn’t have room for it in his dorm room, but he must have liked it because he took it with him!

  9. April 4, 2014 5:00 pm

    I just LOVE that squid! My son would appreciate that.

    • April 4, 2014 5:11 pm

      As you can probably tell, it’s as big as my son is, and he’s 6 foot 3 inches tall.

  10. aartichapati permalink
    April 6, 2014 11:04 pm

    This is the only boom by Rowell I have read, and I really enjoyed it. I should read more! She is also fun to follow on Twitter. I like that you cannot quite tell how overweight Eleanor is – how much is real and how much is in her head. And how Rowell shows that it doesn’t really matter how much of it is true, it matters that Eleanor thinks so COMPLETELY that it is true.

    • April 7, 2014 7:55 am

      Given that Eleanor is tall, well-endowed, and doesn’t get a lot to eat– and that it would be dangerous for her stepfather to see exactly how well-endowed she is, I think she isn’t overweight at all. Many 16-year-old girls think they’re overweight if they have curves at all, especially when they are disconcerted by how quickly their bodies are changing.


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