Turns out that maybe Eleanor & Park falls between the two romance categories in which I've placed romances. The story does revolve on the romance, yet it doesn't take over the story either...just what I need, another romance category. Eleanor & Park is about...well, Eleanor and Park. Two teenagers who form an unlikely friendship. Or so they think. From how they describe and think of themselves, I think their friendship was pretty likely. Set apart from others for various reasons, they form quite a bond and experience high school as only a teen can. And it sent me straight back to high school. Memories as fresh as ever.
For those of you who don't know, I basically never left high school. Yes, I graduated, but almost every year since I have been in a high school setting. In college there was always field work that placed me in a local high school; I was an active substitute teacher for two years; and I am currently in year ten of teaching high school English. Besides the fact that my own high school years seemed so emotional to me, watching the same replay in my students and my own kids, keeps it fresh in my mind (with the wisdom of hindsight of course). Teenage-hood being what it is, it doesn't take much to get the emotions flowing. Eleanor & Park plays out that high school romance idea very well.
Now, of course, there are other matters in the story, ones to which I cannot relate. Eleanor doesn't have a good home life, which leads to complications for her and those around her too. But, watch the news, hear a few stories from local police or educators, and you'll find that these circumstances and worse are common among teenagers and their actions.
Eleanor & Park has been well received by adults and teens alike and for this I am glad. After reading it I realized it could have been poo-pooed as dramatic teen love despite Eleanor's situation in the story. But I remember what it felt like to be me those years. Even if life wasn't as bad as I thought (and it really wasn't), it felt like it at the time. And that's what mattered. Sometimes being firm - setting a kid straight - is needed, but compassion is always needed, if not more.
My Rowell reading has been a success thus far! I've found Landline and Eleanor & Park spot on for the opposite ages and times in which they take place. Thank you Rainbow Rowell for being a diverse writer in this manner.
One thing I know - you couldn't pay me to go back to high school. Oh wait, I do get paid to go there. Okay well, as a student, no way. What about you readers? Miss those teen years at all?