Friday, October 04, 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
audio version read by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

As I mentioned before, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park was recommended to me by my friend Nancy. I ended up listening the e-audio version of the novel simply because it was the version that I was able to get my hands on most quickly. It was a good decision, though, because the audiobook is extremely well-produced. The decision to have two narrators, each corresponding to one of the point-of-view characters, was a smart one.

Having two different actors bringing life to the two different narratives highlights just how deftly Rowell has managed the dual points of view. Throughout Eleanor and Park Rowell plays the protagonists' reactions against each other. She easily jumps back and forth between the two narratives and doesn't get bogged down in needing to stay with one of them for a certain amount of time before going back to the other. Occasionally she is with a character for only a sentence or two before switching back, but it is so well-done that it doesn't jar the reader. She also never stays with one character long enough for readers to get frustrated by their need to hear about the other.

I adored Eleanor and Park. I liked Park, I liked Eleanor, and I could relate to both of them. Their voices felt authentic as did the things each of them experienced over the course of the novel and particularly how each of them responded to those experiences. I came of age (and first fell in love) during this pre-cell phone, pre-email era so I can say with perfect certainty that Rowell knows of what she writes.

A beautiful, substantive love story tinged with nostalgia, Eleanor and Park is definitely one of the best books I've read so far this year.   It's going straight onto my favorites list and I will be buying myself a copy.

For what it's worth, I don't see Eleanor and Park as a young adult(-only) book.  I would classify it as general fiction and say that it was a good choice for teens.  I think Eleanor and Park is being marketed as a young adult novel because it's an easy sell with the protagonists being high school students experiencing their first real relationship.1 The young adult classification is sometimes a turn off to adult readers, though, which is unfortunate because I almost think the most perfect audience for Eleanor and Park are readers like myself who are contemporaries (or near contemporaries) of the titular characters.  There's the nostalgia factor, of course, but I truly believe that Eleanor and Park is a novel that will resonate with adult readers. Park and Eleanor are dealing with coming-of-age issues, but they are also dealing with real-world issues, things that don't go away (or seem less horrific) once one grows up.

I know that today's young adults will be able to relate to Park and Eleanor and the things that they are going through. But I wonder if many of them, as connected as they are,2 will be able to comprehend Park and Eleanor's extracurricular communication difficulties. I'm not sure that matters, though. Eleanor and Park is a must-read for them anyway.3
  1. And YA continues to be hot, hot, hot.
  2. As connected as we all are these days.
  3. Niece #1 will be getting a copy when I see her in December and nephew #1 will probably get one in a year or two.

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