Like many others in January, I found myself both reflecting on what we have accomplished so far this school year and looking ahead to what still needs to be accomplished before June. Call it a New Year’s resolution, but one thing I have wanted to do is write regular book reviews of what I have been reading. I spend a great deal of time talking with both students and staff members about different titles, and I think this would be a great way to share some of the great young adult literature we have in the media center. I hope to have a few great adult selections to share from time to time as well. Since I am just beginning this feature on our blog, I expect to see it change and evolve as we receive feedback from our patrons. I think Mrs. Lukkarinen is excited about this, too, and actually beat me by publishing her first review earlier today!
For my first review, I am going to go with one of my favorite reads so far this year. I knew there was a great deal of buzz surrounding the release of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I added it to my impossibly long list of “to reads” and didn’t think much about it again until my daughter read it. Most of the students who talk to me about books can tell you that I value my teenage daughter’s opinion of books more than just about anyone’s. An avid reader all of her life, she has a keen eye for quality young adult literature. And as much as I hate to admit it, these days she reads at least two books for each one I finish. So when she decided to take Eleanor & Park with her on our family vacation in November, I knew I would find out just how good this book was.
It would be putting it mildly to say she loved Eleanor & Park. Once her verdict was in, it moved to the top of my list, and I read it over two days last week. My only regret is that I didn’t take more time to savor the book and the two title characters with whom I fell in love. I can’t say that it is a plot-driven, page-turner, but the characters are so real and the emotions so raw that I had a lump in my throat for much of the book. In just thirty short pages, I was 16 and experiencing first love again. Now I hope that statement doesn’t scare off readers who avoid romance novels like the plague. While I would agree it is a romantic read, it reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which delivered so much more than just a love story. Eleanor & Park is a story about growing up, being uncomfortable in one’s own skin, and having hope when all seems lost. It also touches on important social issues like bullying and living in poverty. But I must be honest – what I will remember most about Eleanor & Park is that first love is often the purest, truest love. What could be better during the week we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day?