Eleanor and Park is set in the 80’s, which = YEAH! Hard to hear it framed as historical, but I guess that’s accurate. I guess my childhood is now a historical period ripe with amusing cultural touchstones. The characters are so beautifully-drawn in this story, and their slow-growing romance is different than a lot that’s on the YA shelves. We get to see Eleanor and Park evolve from strangers to friends to lovers. I loved reading along as they navigated the murky trenches of disparate home lives and school lives and the throes of real, true, all-encompassing love. And of course, Rowell’s stunning language just drives it all home.
“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.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.”
And as if Eleanor and Park wasn’t enough awesome, she goes and puts out Fangirl. To be honest, I was a little afraid to read Fangirl. My current WIP is about a girl who is obsessed with a TV show and I worried that this story would basically be my story but way better and already published by a well-known and beloved author. Luckily, this story was nothing like mine, and I was able to enjoy it without writhing in depression about how much work I would have to scrap.
Fangirl is about a girl named Cath and her twin sister Wren. They’re both obsessed with the Simon Snow series (read: Harry Potter), but when they go off to college, Wren moves on and Cath just… can’t. It’s a love story and a sister story and a story about figuring out all kinds of Big Life Things. The tone is altogether lighter than Eleanor and Park, and I breezed right through. Levi, the story’s love muffin du jour, is pretty scrumptious. I’m still in my 20’s, so I can call a boy scrumptious. I’ll be 30 this year, so I gotta get it in while I still can.
The only thing I wasn’t a huge fangirl of (lol, rofl, lmao!) was the clips from the Simon Snow series that Rowell tacked on to the end of each chapter. I loved seeing Cath’s fan fiction, and that made total sense within the context of the story, but the bits that were supposed to be from the “real” books kind of seemed pointless to me. Maybe I was missing some deep, profound allegories but I just didn’t really think they added much to the story. And in that same vein, I wished that the fanfic Cath reads to Levi was a little shorter. It was fun to read at first, but I wanted Cath. I wanted Levi. I wanted the present-day story. Like I said, it made sense to include some of the fanfic since it was integral to Cath’s character, but I could’ve done with a smidgen less.
Rowell has also written a couple stories for adults, and now that I’ve read both of her YA books, I can’t wait to get my hands on those as well!
Have you read anything by Rainbow Rowell? If not, do you at least agree that her name is adorable?