Archive | October, 2012

It’s not like any other love: Eleanor & Park

22 Oct

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press

Expected publication: March 2013

Previously published in the UK by Orion in April 2012

Digital copy for review kindly provided by the publisher.

“It’s not like any other love – this one is different, because it’s us…”* Naturally I have to use lyrics from The Smiths to discuss Rainbow Rowell’s eloquent forthcoming novel. After all, imagine my delight over finding this quirky story set in Omaha, Nebraska during the 1980s (an especially good decade for cartoons) about two teens slowly falling in love over comics, the maudlin sounds of Morrissey and Joy Division, and a shared sense of being completely out of sync with the world around them.

Park has always been somewhat of an outsider in the Flats – his musical tastes, predilection for X-Men and Alan Moore, and biraciality (he’s half-White/half-Korean) sets him apart from his classmates. His pseudo-friends, the oafish Steve, and his mean little girlfriend, Tina, find Park curious. Sure they tease him, good-naturedly, but deep down they’re confounded by him, and in Tina’s case, definitely attracted, too. Enter Eleanor.

Eleanor’s bright red hair, and her off-beat fashion makes her the target of ridicule on her first day of school. On the surface, Eleanor reminded me of Andie Walsh (played by Molly Ringwald) in Pretty in Pink. Like Andie, Eleanor outwardly appears stoic, quietly enduring the jeers and taunts; inwardly, she’s self-conscious, and the choices she makes aren’t always dictated by a need to go against the grain. Kicked out the year before by her abusive stepfather, Eleanor is just returning home, uncertain of everything and everyone around her.

When they first meet, Park is taken aback by Eleanor – his reaction partly stems from how his peers perceive her. Even though he knows he’s different from his them, he doesn’t want to be ostracized. Park grudgingly lets Eleanor sit next to him on the bus. Rowell builds up their relationship ever so slowly – moving from the mundane details into deeply emotional territory. In many contemporary stories, love swoops in almost too quickly, and that’s largely because we live in a culture of immediacy, demanding instant gratification. Rowell’s novel is soporific – sure there are nightmarish moments (especially Eleanor’s family life), but their romance truly feels dreamlike – like a paused moment in time.  While their connection has all the bright intensity of an indie love song, it’s clear to readers that Eleanor & Park won’t go the distance. Not because love isn’t enough, but because love doesn’t always conquer all.

Rowell intercuts the romance with poignant dialogue about Park’s feelings about his Korean identity –sadness over being misunderstood by his white father, and insecurity over Eleanor’s attraction to him. In a particularly telling scene, Park tells Eleanor, “Look at M*A*S*H. The whole show takes place in Korea, and the doctors are always flirting with Korean girls, right? But the nurses don’t use their R & R to go to Seoul to pick up hot Korean guys. Everything that makes Asian girls seem exotic makes Asian guys seem like girls” (Location 2824 – Kindle). When Park tells Eleanor that he doesn’t understand what it means to be Korean, she asks, “Does it matter?” (Location 2838 – Kindle) It’s not such a minor question, considering that Park spends a significant amount of time analyzing all the dissimilarities between himself and his father, including, racial differences. Eleanor’s Danish heritage is revealed in a violent scene in which her drunken stepfather hurls a bowl of risalamande (Danish rice pudding – traditionally served during Christmas) against the wall. Eleanor’s Danishness is a wistful reminder of how things were before her mother married an abusive man; it’s not surprising that she wonders about the importance of one’s cultural background.

Rowell writes with brilliant clarity, expertly using alternating voices to draw readers into Eleanor and Park’s world. If you’re looking for a happy ending neatly tied up with a bow, this novel doesn’t provide that. Rather, Eleanor & Park’s appeal stems from its stark realism, and the sense that this story could happen to anyone.

*Hand in Glove by The Smiths

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Cybils Awards~Nominate an App TODAY!

11 Oct
This is the second year that Books Apps are being recognized by the Cybils Awards. The Children’s and Young Adult Literary Bloggers’ (Cybils) Awards annually recognize the best in children’s and young adults books.  As I mentioned before, I am a Round 1 panelist for the Book Apps category. Anyone can nominate books (and apps!) between October 1st and October 15th. Time is running out, and there are only 5 DAYS left until public nominations close.

The process to nominate is simple – go HERE to nominate, and enter your favorite titles. All titles nominated must fall within the publication range of October 16, 2011-October 15, 2012.

We currently have approximately 20 excellent book apps nominated, but we would like to see more! Here are some worthy nominations that I hope you’ll consider submitting. If, by the time you read this blog, some of these titles have already been nominated, Kirkus has excellent app recommendations for consideration.
[All quotes and links from Kirkus Reviews]
Mr. Sandman published by Manon Aidan and Yanick Gourville. Illust. by Cyril Jedor
A moody, beautifully rendered dreamscape, this app about conquering a fear of the dark takes full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities.”
Leah & the Owl by Cori Doerrfeld
Because I love owls, of course I had to include this title. 🙂 “Leah’s adventure with the owl is a lovely dream, and so is this whimsical app, which makes the magic feel effortless.”
Hiding Hannah by Mike Johnson. Illust by Melanie McCall
“A child’s frustrating habit of hiding things (including herself) around the house is offset by the cuteness of the hider and the light, playful tone of this app.”
“Ever a guilty pleasure anyway, the popular but violent preschool hand rhyme takes a gothic turn in this startling iteration.”
Sneaky Sam by Josh Stewart. Illust. by Binny Talib
“A brief but endearing tale about a mischievous little boy.This app proves the notion that an interactive storybook need not be super slick or brimming with tricks to leap the “average” bar.”
The House That Went On Strike by Rania Ajami and John Casey. Illust. by Walter Krudop
“In an episode both funny and pointed, a family of slobs receives an ultimatum from their filthy house and its disgusted appliances.”
Even Monsters Get Sick by Michael Bruza
“Zub looks like a bad bargain until his new young owner, Harry, realizes that the monster isn’t sad and boring but actually ill…Children with wheezles and sneezles of their own will sympathize with the droopy monster and perhaps feel a little less anxious about doctor visits, too.”
Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery by Jamie Lee Curtis. Illust. by Laura Cornell
“…The stratospheric level of interactivity transforms the verse into soaring, imaginative exploration”

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