“You always look nice.’
‘I never look nice.’ she said. Like he was an idiot.
‘I like the way you look,’ he said. It came out more like an argument than a compliment.
That doesn’t mean it’s nice,’ she was whispering, too.
‘Fine then, you look like a hobo.’
‘A hobo?’ Her eyes lit.
‘Yeah, a gypsy hobo,’ he said. ‘You look like you just joined the cast of Godspell.’
‘I don’t even know what that is.’
She stepped closer to him. ‘I look like a hobo?’
‘Worse,’ he said. ‘Like a sad hobo clown.’
‘And you like it?’
‘I love it.’
As soon as he said it, she broke into a smile. And when Eleanor smiled, something broke inside of him.
Something always did.” (Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell)
Well, when John Green writes a glowing review of a YA book in the NYT, there isn’t much use for my exhortation (which is the same as his: read it now), but I feel compelled to type it anyway.
So many romances these days start with blind attraction as an excuse for love that I had almost forgotten it was possible to read a book where love slowly develops out of curiosity and recognition. Rowell creates a beautiful romance by shifting between Eleanor and Park’s perspectives so that the reader falls in love with each character through the others eyes, experiencing exactly how they intrigue and fascinate each other. It is not a generic romance – not just anyone could love Park or Eleanor – but they compliment and amplify each other so very well.
Rowell writes some of the steamiest non-sex scenes I have ever read in my life. All these two have to do is hold hands, or describe each others eyebrows, and their raw emotion feels more intimate than the most graphic of erotica. My only qualm with the book is the ending. I understand that ‘literary novels’ do not have happy ones these days, but why ever not? It will be impossible for you not to feel unsatisfied and write and rewrite their stories in your head for weeks after putting down the slim volume. Which is, perhaps, the point.
Recommended Action: Buy – borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 336 pgs
Ending: As stated
Further Reading: John Green – all of it. This is a book to add to that short list of superb reads for smart, mature teens.