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Books We Can’t Stop Talking About: Eleanor & Park

Post by Kathy Stewart
Posted April 29, 2013 in Kids & Book News, NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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One of the great pleasures of working at NoveList: there's never a lack of either recommendations for a good read or lively discussion about books. I sat down with Beth Gerall and Danielle Allison, both librarians who are editors/catalogers (respectively) and NoveList team members who focus on books for kids and teens. Both had just read Eleanor & Park, by debut author Rainbow Rowell, and couldn't stop talking about this buzz-worthy book.

P.S. I'm reading it now and loving it.



Book jacket for Eleanor & ParkA Conversation About Eleanor & Park

Question: Don't think too hard – how would you describe Eleanor & Park, in terms of genres and appeals?

Beth: Realistic Fiction, emotionally intense, moving, character-driven.

Danielle: Coming-of-age, angst-filled, heart-wrenching, moving, character-driven.

Did the cover convey what the book is about?

Beth: I think the cover conveyed an important part of the entire book, but it seemed to portray a lighter tone, but it didn't give anything away.

Danielle: Ultimately it does.

Your emotional reaction? Spill it!

Beth: [The tension] made my stomach hurt – it was great!

Danielle: Happy cry/sad cry/happy cry/sad cry.

Would adults go for this book?

Beth: No. Adults have forgotten what this is like. I don't think adults would relate to it unless they're YA fiction readers then they will love it.

Danielle: Yes. The characters are so well-developed. It takes you back to the intensity of first love.

Talk about plot elements.  Did you see it coming?

Beth: I didn't see it coming.

Danielle: I saw it coming.

Is Eleanor & Park a book you'd usually read?

Beth: The fact that it has romance is unusual for me. I usually read science fiction, fantasy and realistic fiction, but not romance.

Danielle: I picked it up because it has romance. I don't typically read realistic fiction.

How'd the ending work for you? No spoilers!

Beth: It touched me deeply.

Danielle [to Beth]: So it brought up a hopeful feeling for you?

Beth: With all that was happening, they were constant in each other's minds.

Danielle: I'm slightly more jaded. The ending wrapped up too prettily. "C'mon, you bring me all the way with this book then this?"

Beth: It's definitely open to interpretation.

Danielle: It wasn't just a dud ending.

Beth: It certainly fit the characters and the pacing. Talk about satisfying but not neat. Danielle: I had a really emotional reaction to it that I don't usually have.

Beth: I've told so many people about this book. I listened to it on audio and had several 'NPR driveway moments.'

Beth/Danielle: It doesn't have a stock YA ending.  We could definitely re-read it. Eleanor & Park is so good.

Want more? Try these read-alikes for Eleanor & Park

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn
Though the characters in these angst-filled books might be labeled misfits, they are complex and realistic. Told in alternating first-person chapters, Eleanor and Park is a romance, while OCD, told through essays, journal and diary entries is about self-acceptance. — recommended by Beth Gerall

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Misfit main characters in these angst-filled, absorbing books prove resilient, each facing rough day-to-day circumstances (bullying, poverty, abuse) yet somehow hanging on. Eleanor & Park, told in alternating points of view, features romantic love; both are layered with dark humor. — recommended by Kathy Stewart

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Both of these emotionally intense realistic fiction novels are set in the recent past, and feature misfit protagonists working through the agonies and ecstasies of first love, friendship, and surviving high school. – recommended by Alina Gerall


Kathy is a juvenile content specialist at NoveList. She is passionate about children's literature and secretly yearns to be the next J.K. Rowling. Kathy devours books for teens and reads adult nonfiction in her interest areas, gardening and food. She fits in adult fiction whenever possible.