Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell; 2013
I was very pleasantly surprised by Eleanor & Park. Now that my Sarah Dessen days are (sadly) far behind me, I’m not always a YA fan, although I dabble very occasionally. Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986 in Nebraska. There are a lot of music and comic book references, but not so many that it becomes annoying or distracting if you’re not familiar with all of them, like me. Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus and become an unlikely pair. I’m hesitant to say much more than that, because I think it’s better to be surprised by all of it. It’s about a first love, and things do escalate pretty quickly, but such is the nature of YA. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
The writing is clean, engaging, and accessible for both YA and adult readers. Park’s parents are so perfectly drawn, and think Rowell has the impressive ability to tap into the teenager experience really convincingly. Her characters are still developing, still messy, still awkward. AKA real life, amirite? This was by far the most convincing contemporary YA sophisticated enough to convince me to become the occasional YA fan. Please do read!