Pick of the Week: Eleanor and Park
I remember being a teen in love and being told dismissively by the adults in my life, that these feelings were just 'puppy love'. Rainbow Rowell has written a book that perfectly captures the intense, almost exquisitely painful feelings of a teen's first true love and she doesn't patronize nor dismiss these very real feelings. Neither does she provide easy answers for Eleanor and Park, two teens who meet on the school bus and initially bond over comic books and music. Both are targets for the high school's bullies and struggle to maintain their dignity in the face of almost daily taunts,threats and attacks. Both have built emotional armor to protect themselves, yet as they slowly get to know and trust each other they gradually let down this guard and reveal their true selves. Eleanor's home situation is awful and as he realizes just how awful it is, Park wants to help. But the more he tries to help, the worse it becomes.
This is a powerful and empowering book. Most of the adults in Eleanor's life are unable, unwilling or just too scared to acknowledge let alone face, the trouble she is in. Rainbow Rowell recognizes that teens' emotions are quite real and that often they are able to act on those emotions to solve problems that adults pretend don't exist.
I highly recommend this book for teens and adults who like a realistic love story with a realistic and satisfying conclusion.