Summer Reading: Eleanor & Park

When the author (John Green) of one of the best novels (The Fault In Our Starts) you have read in a long time highly recommends a book you go and read it.

That book is Eleanor & Park.

Rainbow Rowell’s novel doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights of The Fault In Our Stars (what could), but it does add a unique and strong voice to the burgeoning “young adult” genre.

I loved two things about this novel. First, this an author who writes a great high school love story that revolves around real people. There are no vampires, no wizards, no extraordinary/otherworldly challenges that the characters face. These are real kids who we went to high school with (or who we were in high school). Relatable characters can come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of genres, but I don’t know of any other YA stories that nail real life high school like this does.

Second, Eleanor & Park has been cast as an interracial dating book, and I suppose that’s in there, but this novel is really about class, and class divisions, and the challenges of lower-income families and kids, and the challenges that come when lower-income kids interact with middle-income kids. And I think that is unique too. Class is just as large of a challenge for  us to understand and talk about as race, and it creates just as many divisions. Rainbow Rowell handles it all with very skilled hands.

No spoiler alerts here. Read the book to the end. It is moving in all the right ways.

4 (of 5) stars

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