Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kid Konnection: Eleanor & Park (Audio)

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection  -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a young adult audio book that managed to touch my heart.

Summary: Bono met his wife in high school, Park says. 
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers. 
I’m not kidding, he says. 
You should be, she says, we’re 16. 
What about Romeo and Juliet? 
Shallow, confused, then dead. 
I love you, Park says. 
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers. 
I’m not kidding, he says. 
You should be. 

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.  -- Random House Audio

I rarely read young adult books. I think I learned pretty early on that I'm not a big fan of dystopia, and it seems like many of the popular YA novels are of that genre. So when I heard so many good things about ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell (which just happens to be a love story set in 1986 -- my high school years), I decided to take a chance. I am so glad that I did because I loved this charming story.

ELEANOR & PARK tells the story of... well, Eleanor and Park. Eleanor is a "big girl" with bright red hair and doesn't really fit in with her classmates. She tries to fly below the radar both at school and at home where she has an abusive step-father. Park, who is half Korean, comes from a relatively normal home and seems to fit in relatively well with the popular crowd; however, he doesn't really live up to his macho father's expectations.

Eleanor and Park's relationship begins on the bus one day when Park "invites" Eleanor to sit with him. For many days, Eleanor and Park don't say a word to each other, but Eleanor begins reading Park's comic books over his shoulder. Eventually, Park begins lending his comics to Eleanor and they gradually start talking about the comics... and then music... and then other things. Much to their surprise, they find themselves falling for each other and discovering how special a first love can be.

I adored ELEANOR & PARK. It's just a very sweet love story about two misfits who find a sense of belonging and acceptance with each other. It doesn't sound that original as far as YA love stories go; and yet, ELEANOR & PARK is a very special novel and not quite like anything I've ever read. I became caught up in their lives and their love story, and the entire novel just made me feel good.

One of my absolute favorite things about this novel was its honesty. Both Eleanor and Park were so incredibly real to me. While I didn't really have much in common with either kid when I was a teen, I still was able to relate to them and their love story. And that just might be the beauty of this novel -- the reader's ability, no matter the age, to remember their first love and just how intense and special it was.

Another thing I appreciated about ELEANOR & PARK was when it took place. Like the characters in this story, I was in high school in 1986! I loved all of the music references as well as the fashion ones. I'm pretty sure the time period made the book, and their love story, even more relevant to me!

I have to give major kudos to Ms. Rowell! She is such a fantastic writer! This is the first novel that I've read by her, but I can guarantee it won't be the last. I loved how she created these characters and made them so real, and I thought her dialogue was spot on. I also thought she did an amazing job of bringing Eleanor and Park's intense feelings of first love to life. Her descriptions of what they experienced with each other (and I don't mean this in a sexual way) was just beautiful and so powerful.

However, it was how Ms. Rowell managed to make me care so much about these characters, and as a result, reflect on my life, that brought this novel to the next level. It's always a treat for me as a reader to discover a story that makes me think, and more importantly feel, like this one did. Weeks after finishing this novel, I'm still thinking about these characters. And that's really saying something!

The audio version was read by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, and I loved their portrayal of Eleanor and Park. The story alternated between their voices, so the reader was able to fully understand each character and how they felt about the other one. I thought both Ms. Lowman and Mr. Malhotra's voices were very realistic and they actually sounded like teens. Looking back, I think their narration was one of the reasons that I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. Here's a sample:

I truly loved ELEANOR & PARK and I highly recommend! I received a copy of this audio book from Kathy/BermudaOnion.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Peaceful Reader said...

I just read and reviewed this book! I'm sure the audio is wonderful.

Beth F said...

I'm the only person who hasn't read or listened to this yet! I know I'd love it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I couldn't find this one on audio, so I bought it on Kindle. I have not heard one bad thing about this book, and it takes place right in the middle of junior year in college. Apparently I read slower than a first grader these days but I will get to this at some point.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

1986 was the year I graduated high school so I know I would love the setting to this one!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I adored this one as well. I love her - she reminds me a lot of John Green.

bermudaonion said...

I agree with you - the plot of this book doesn't sound all that original but Rowell sure did make it special. I adored the characters and thought the audio was fantastic!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

Oh I definitely must get this one! I was starting 9th grade in '86 and can recall my first high school love clearly and with such fond memories. What a beautiful story this appears to be! Thanks for the recommendation!