Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Eleanor and Park

To read the YA novel Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is to be pulled into a story of teen love that feels as impossible as Romeo and Juliet, though with a different ending. Around three quarters of the way through, after many references to Shakespeare's play, and a scene where Park shows up at Eleanor's window, I developed a sense of dread and wondered, Oh no! Will they die? I was afraid to continue, though I had to. Rowell's storytelling is great. I thought the ending was just right.

There is so much color and interest in this book. Eleanor is a freckled redhead, Park is half Korean, Eleanor's girlfriends are two black girls and the loyal friends Eleanor needs, engagingly honest. No character seems stereotypical. No character seemed to be placed in this book gratuitously.

Omaha is an unusual setting and the use of the school bus, repetitively, over time, as a place where Park and Eleanor meet and their love story develops, seemed a clever use of setting.

I am always curious to see how an author deals with sexuality in a teen love story. Rowell strikes a perfect tone.  She conveys page turning passion between Park and Eleanor, and there is lovemaking,  but it falls short of intercourse between the two 16 year olds. The time, after all, is not right even if protection were available, which it was not. Park displays a sense of responsibility that comes from loving Eleanor and a desire to not complicate her life more than it already is.

Would that all modern Romeos were as responsible.

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