Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell This book got me out of my reading slump. I know that I'm not spoiling it for anyone when I say that this is about a relationship. I know that the title sounds cutesy but this book wasn't nearly as sentimental as I thought it would be. For one thing, it took place in the 1980's, so there was a lot of Walkman references and Avon make-up mentioned. (Not that those things aren't still cool and exist today, but it sounded newer in the story.) For another, the backstories of these characters--particularly Eleanor--is gritty. Gritty backstories in YA novels gets me worried sometimes; in some books I've read the Big Bad Experience gets plopped down mid-plot, and it only exists to make the main character cry. These Big Bad Experiences usually include abruptly-cruel parenting. While, yes, there are bad parents in the world and there are bad parents in fiction, if the parents are going to play a major role I feel that they have to be realistic and dynamic for the novel. And, if not, there are more eloquent, and less violent, ways of showing character vulnerability. (Rant over.) That said, Rowell handles this situation well. Both Park and Eleanor's parents are flawed and interesting, and while there is grit, it feels true to their characters. I liked the detailed progress of Eleanor and Park's relationship. There was a lot of humor put into their interactions, which makes up for the dramatic antics of high school love. Park and Eleanor are insecure, lost teenagers who are trying to be adults, and despite their bumbling I rooted for them the whole book.