Monday, February 02, 2015

Eleanor & Park (comments)

Last year at the children's lit association conference I heard a lot about Eleanor & Park (by Rainbow Rowell), so I simply had to check it out.

Friends gave us all B&N gift cards for Christmas back in the December, so E&P was one of the books I bought (as you may have seen in this post).

Some random, maybe unrelated thoughts on the book (oh, J, please don't read this until you're done reading the book, if we don't have time to talk about it, this post will be one half of a conversation, OK?):

  • It just occurred to me while typing the title that it reminds me of Jane Austen & her titles (and how an early title of Sense & Sensibility was Elinor & Marianne, wasn't it?). Other than that, the book doesn't have much to do with Austen at all (and maybe, in a tangential way, with Romeo & Juliet).
  • What I liked the most about the book was its development of E&P's relationship, coupled with the development (or the slowly revealing and unfolding) of the characters. The most important thing to me is that Rowell depicts very realistically how they are drawn to each other because they have or develop interests in common and become/realize they are "kindred spirits." The physical aspect of the relationship (related to the hormonal teenage years) is important and relevant, but it's not the key aspect of their relationship and I thought that was great. 
  • Obviously, I liked, no, loved that the characters are so geeky and misfits. And that Park is half-Korean, leading to discussions of racial identity, prejudice, etc. (and Eleanor's only friends are African-American girls).
  • The most moving moment of the book for me (I actually sobbed aloud a few times and my husband checked on me from the other room) was when P's mom finally identifies, in a visceral way, with E and accepts her. That brief scene is one of the few moments of the book in which we get some insight into P's mom Mindy's (Min-Dea? Didn't seem very authentic) expatriate experience. When faced with the reality of E's family Mindy recalls her own experiences growing up poor in Korea. 
  • Considering many young people's dramatic real-life experiences of abuse I appreciate how the book treats the situation of E's family fairly "delicately." Because it obviously could have been way worse, more dramatic and explicit (although it is pretty explicit through the characters words, at times, if not actions). 
  • I like the relative diversity of the book, although most characters are still white. and its focus on poverty, marginality and immigration. It's not really centrally discussed, but apparently Park's family only lives in that run down neighborhood because they'd be misfits elsewhere given that his dad married a Korean woman. Maybe I'd need to learn more about Omaha, NE in order to understand this part of the story.
  • Last, but not least (and I know there were tons more things I wanted to say, but it's just hard to remember them all, especially because I started writing this post last night & am finishing it today), I like Rainbow's (what a great name, I think it fits her well!) writing a lot. I don't know exactly why, but I do.
  • ... and I thought it was absolutely awesome that she had Eleanor mom humming one of my favorite and also one of the saddest songs ever (Clouds by Joni Mitchell) in one of the few scenes mother & daughter have together. This author knows her music and has great musical sensibility!! I wish I had found out her "mix tapes" or playlists for the book earlier and had read the book listening to all that music. I'll need to re-read the book to that soundtrack someday.

I'd love to read other people's thoughts on this book and I'm thrilled to discover that Rainbow Rowell has a blog. I also want to read all her other books.

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