Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 2013
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis can be found here.
Eleanor & Park meet on the school bus. She’s an outcast, the new girl, flaming red hair and friendless. He’s quiet, keeps to himself, and reluctantly scoots over for her to sit down. And the rest is history.
Beautifully written, Eleanor & Park is filled with rich and gooey sentences I want to read again and again. Rowell does a fantastic job describing Park’s loving but far from perfect family as well as Eleanor’s harsh and dangerous home life. These two character’s backgrounds are portrayed beautifully, creating a delicate backdrop to this young adult realistic love.
Eleanor is picked on, she’s bullied, but she hasn’t lost hope. She hasn’t lost herself. Park doesn’t fit in. He’s half Korean which both defines him and is the way others see him, but this subject is handled playfully, with care.
Complicated yet pure first love stands against the setting of dark and sometimes dangerous times makes Eleanor & Park not unique. But Rowell does such a wonderful job writing about them, it is as if you’ve never read a story of star crossed lovers. As if you’ve never read a story about first love. As if you are falling in love for the first time. All over again.
And that may be what allows this novel to stand out from the others out there. The beautiful writing, the sharp and witty dialogue, the flawed characters.
I see Eleanor on the bus. And Park sitting next to her. Driving away.
Can’t recommend it enough.
Rating 10 One of The Best
Author Interview! with Rainbow Rowell
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
What inspired you to become a writer?
Probably READING inspired me to be a writer. I’ve always been a heavy reader. (Is “heavy” the right word? Maybe “problematic”?) And then, in school, my teachers encouraged me to write. I decided pretty early on that it was my thing.
What is the last book you read?
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary. With my kids.
The last adult book I read was Maurice by E.M. Forster.
This is a beautiful story of first love. What made you set this story in 1986?
Thank you! I chose 1986 for a number of reasons:
First, it’s a year I really remember. I remember what the world looked and smelled like in 1986.
And second, it was a time when culture – pop culture and alternative culture – were shifting. All of these underground ideas were finally making their way into Middle America, and I remember how exciting that was. The first time I heard the Smiths, the first time I read a Neil Gaiman comic … It made me feel like there were Things Happening. Like the world was more interesting than I’d ever guessed. I wanted to give Eleanor that feeling.
I love the tapes Park makes Eleanor so she can explore music. Did you have certain playlists or bands you listened to while you wrote this book?
I did! I always build playlists while I write a book. (It’s serious business.) I use specific songs to help me focus the mood in a given scene; sometimes it can take days to write one scene, and it’s hard to keep your head in the same place. I’ll use a song as an emotional anchor, to keep me there.
For Eleanor & Park, I made mixed tape-themed playlists, one tape with two sides for each character. You can listen to them on my Spotify profile.
Also, I’ve blogged about the playlists on my website.
Eleanor and Park are such unique characters with very different voices. Did you love to write in one character’s POV more?
Thank you! This is a really interesting question; I haven’t thought about this before. I might give Park the slight edge, just because his life is happier. Eleanor was fun to write because she’s funny, and because she has a very sharp take on the world — but sometimes her head was a sad place to be.
How do you like your potato?
Mashed. At Thanksgiving.
Do you have a favorite literary character?
If I had to boil it down to one character, I might go with Adrian Mole. He’s a British teenager in a very funny book called The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. I also love James Fraser in the Outlander series. (Best romantic hero.) And Hermione Granger.
When is your favorite time to write?
At night! My brain clicks on about 4 p.m. and doesn’t turn off until midnight. Unfortunately, that’s a really inconvenient time for a mom to write.
I saw that you read comic books, like Park! What comic books series are your favorites?
I used to be really, really caught up in the X-Men. I’d read anything with an X in it. But that got kind of unmanageable … Now I stick to my favorite writers. I love EVERYTHING by Brian K. Vaughan. (Right now I’m reading Saga.) And Peter David (X-Factor). And I also love Bill Willingham’s Fables.
What are you working on now?
My second YA book, Fangirl, comes out in September. The official summary is: “A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.”
And I’m revising my fourth book, which is for adults. (Though I’m not sure how important that designation is, considering how many adults read YA and vice versa.)
Thank you for the interview Rainbow!