Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Audiobook Review

In September, the Anoka-Hennepin school district, in Minnesota, banned author Rainbow Rowell from coming to speak about her book Eleanor & Park, during Banned Books Week.  The controversy caused a wave of opinions and the outrage of book lovers everywhere.  It also put Eleanor & Park on the radar of many readers, including me, as I went out and bought the audio book immediately.  Don't they know that if you ban a book, people everywhere want to read it?  I guess not.

Eleanor: New girl in town.  Insecure, a bit overweight, and has a horrible home life.  The first day, she climbs onto the bus and no one will let her sit down.

Park:  Reluctantly moves over on the bus.  Hopes no one notices.  Listens to his headphones and reads comic books.

Eleanor:  I wonder if he's Asian.  He is always reading these comic books, and he doesn't notice that I am reading them too. There are no books in my house.  I have lots of younger siblings and we all sleep in one room.  5 of us in one room.

Park:  Why does she wear those horrible clothes?  Maybe I should try and talk to her.  She has red, curly hair.  It looks soft.  Is she reading my book?  I think she is. Hmmm.

Little by Little, Eleanor and Park become friends and fall in love on the school bus in 1986.  What evolves is a sweet tragic love story, told in the alternating voices of Eleanor and Park.  This book brought me back to my high school days and my own first love experienced in the 80's.  These two characters have stolen my heart.  Eleanor faces bullying and an abusive step-father and through it all, she knows she can count on Park.  Park is in love and wants it to be forever, but Eleanor knows it will end someday as all first love stories do.

The audiobook has two narrators, one male and one female and they play the parts of Eleanor and Park extremely well.  I Loved it!  I would highly recommend this audiobook, it was definitely a great listening experience.  It kept my attention and brought the characters to life.  It will make you laugh and cry and cringe over the horrible things that Eleanor had to deal with.  The story is not sticky sweet but a real life type of love story.  Each character brings their own problems to the relationship and yet this relationship is Eleanor's only chance to escape the demons in her life.  Park exists to be Eleanor's serene, calm island, her safety net, in the middle of life's thunderstorm.

I recently heard Rainbow Rowell speak about her book and she stated that Eleanor and Park takes place in her neighborhood, on her school bus and at her high school.  It took her a year to write Eleanor & Park.

A note to the parents who banned Rainbow Rowell from visiting their school district:  I want to say thank you because it was you who caused me to notice and read Eleanor & Park and you, who made me want to see Rainbow speak in St. Paul and it was you, who inspired me to invite her to my high school to speak and it is you, I thank, as I continue to recommend this book to every teenager I know and teach.