Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

eleanor photo

Tons of buzz happenin’ for this quirky YA book about two misfits falling in love.  It’s mostly a love story, but serious issues like self-esteem, bullying and domestic abuse are also covered through Eleanor and Park’s alternating points of view. I did enjoy their romance (and the brilliant hand holding scenes), but I didn’t get the extremely quick progression from barely looking/speaking to each other to being super in love. Not just in love, but the deep intense infatuation kind of love. It gets so cheesy, as ‘“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”-her voice nearly disappeared-“think I live for you.” (P.111) and “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. (p.111)   

As individuals, both Eleanor and Park are both interesting and flawed teens.  Eleanor is a red-headed, overweight girl with Goodwill clothes and a twisted family dynamic. Park is a small, quiet, insecure Asian kid that feels like an outsider in his own community. The character building was phenomenal and I loved that they weren’t the typical bad boy/hot girl combo we usually get in YA.

One other thing- the story takes place in the year 1986. If it weren’t for the continuous references to 80’s music and the cassette player, I could have easily imagined it to take place in the here and now. It reads very current and contemporary. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing… bad because I didn’t feel the 80’s vibe, or good because falling in love is timeless? Regardless, I would love to find out why Rowell set her story (besides being totally rad) in the 1980’s.

In the end, Rowell leaves Eleanor and Park’s heartwarming/heartbreaking love story for the reader to interpret.  Plenty of obstacles complicate this awkward, weird, quirky, touching love, but I can’t help but root for these two eccentric outcasts. 

Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

From Goodreads:

Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

 easy

When looking up ‘new adult’ books, Easy by Tammara Webber was a title that kept appearing along with Slammed by Colleen Hoover.  Since I adored Slammed, this read-alike was an obvious choice.  Why do I love new adult, sooo much? Well, I am one!  As much as I like YA, I do sometimes crave a little more mature content.  ‘New adult’ targets this missing piece in the publishing world, and includes real issues that college students, and young adults face.  While I have not personally dealt with the very serious issue of sexual assault portrayed throughout ‘Easy’, I realize that it is a real concern for college campuses everywhere.

I think Webber handled the delicate topic of sexual assault well, and I appreciated the emphasis on the need to report such incidents, and the message that it is NEVER the victim’s fault.  I just expected Jacqueline to show a little more emotion after the attack, but she quickly focused all her attention on classes, her ex-boyfriend and new crush. That being said, everyone experiences trauma differently and we can’t expect the same reaction from everyone.

This attempted sexual assault in the first couple of pages powerfully sets up the storyline of the book. I thought the college setting was portrayed realistically, but no professor of mine would have been so quick to forgive missing an exam.  Also, I’m not familiar with the Greek fraternity system, so I really didn’t understand the boys’ rationale in covering up the assaults. However, I did like the portrayal of how different individuals (victim, families, friends, social groups) are all affected by such a crime.  It shows how an attack on one person has a rippling effect on other people’s lives.

In terms of Jacqueline and Lucas’ budding romantic relationship, I thoroughly enjoyed the flirty email exchanges.  Yet, I found their on/off status to be a little frustrating.  When they were ‘on’, they had undeniable chemistry, which created some pretty steamy make out scenes.  I must warn you, Lucas fits the tortured, hot, tattooed bad boy love interest that is often played out in YA novels.  But, he does manage to step a little outside the box, as he is also portrayed as sensitive, artistic, and intelligent. In the end, you can’t help but fall for Lucas too.

A recommended read; especially for those that enjoyed Slammed.

Review: The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

 

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Author, John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) teamed up with illustrator, Oliver Jeffers (The Hueys, Stuck) to bring juvenile readers this absurd, quirky adventurous story. Born with the ability to float, Barnaby embarrasses his ‘normal’ parents that are obsessed with being perceived as ‘normal’ by their friends and neighbours. In turn, his parent’s treat him terrible. Like, ignore him and hang him on a clothes line, terrible.  There is a conversation between Barnaby and his mother that will totally break your heart.  After instructing him to stop floating, she tells him, ‘Then, I’m sorry… But I have to say that I don’t like who you are very much” (p. 37).  At their wit’s end, his parent’s cut his weights and he floats around the world to meet other individuals that were sent away or abandoned by their families for also being ‘different’.

Although the characters in Barnaby’s travels all help in delivering the message that it’s OK to be different and true to oneself to be happy, the message got really repetitive.  When Barnaby was intercepted by the International Space Mission, I got bored and started to skim the text. And yes, it is a bizarre fantasy story to begin with, but I felt the space portion was so over the top and unrealistic.

Looking at my blog, I noticed that I’ve been reading lots of books with boy characters deemed different by society. I think the availability of books about embracing differences is fabulous, especially for growing readers looking for someone to relate to. I found the ending of The Terrible Thing… was perfect in sticking with the overall message of the book.  I wonder where in the world Barnaby’s next adventure awaits!

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