In honor of Teen Read Week coming up, here is a fabulous author who’s been very big in YA in the past two-ish years. She’s the author of four books, two for YA, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, and two for adults, Attachments and Landline. While I’ve read Attachments and thought it was great for the New Adult sector or anyone who happens to like chick lit (Meg Cabot’s books, Bridget Jones, etc.), we won’t be covering that book here.
Hope you will fall as much in love with Rainbow Rowell’s books as I have! She also seems like a cool author who I’d love to be friends with (right up there with a few of my favorites like Maggie Stiefvater, Veronica Roth, Meg Cabot, and more!). Check out her website for more information, including a blurb about two upcoming comic books she will be writing in the coming years!
First up is Eleanor & Park which is a Printz Honor book!
In 1986 Omaha, Nebraska, teens Eleanor and Park have formed an unlikely friendship. Eleanor is the new girl, and not well liked for her appearances, but Park still takes pity on her and lets her share his seat on the bus since that first day. Every day they sit together and Park reads his comic books and lets Eleanor read over his shoulder. Park just can’t help but give her things, things he thinks she would like, and Eleanor can’t stop herself from taking them.
Park: Half-Korean with a father who thinks his elder son should be more, just more, and a mother who is nice to everyone. Park, despite his different heritage, is fairly untouchable by the local bullies because his dad’s lived there for years, and the fact that he knows taekwondo.
Eleanor: Bushy red hair and a large-boned body that earns her the nickname “Big Red”. Wears ratty men’s clothing. Is back with her mother, hated stepfather, and siblings because she wants basically unwanted. Her stepfather rules the household and terrorizes them all, denying them suitable food and other basic needs like privacy and clothing because he feels entitled to spend all of their money. Eleanor is bullied by Tina, a local girl, and by an unknown person, who writes terrible things in her notebooks.
They fall in love and readers fall right along with them, until when things fall apart, you’re still rooting for a happily ever after simply because you can’t imagine Park without Eleanor. While I love teen love stories, I especially loved this book! You can almost feel the sense of the 1980’s lifting off the page, but still connect with the characters and events that are happening because of how likeable they are. Every teen has something to identify with either Eleanor or Park here, like loving comic books or music, being athletic (his martial arts) or popular, most especially being different from other kids, or even having an upsetting home life as Eleanor does. Kids who have been bullied, abused, mistreated, or feel invisible will find something great in this book, most notably the hope that even if these things happen to you, in the future things will be better. A beautifully poignant and raw first love story.
This year, Eleanor & Park was just voted the #1 for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten titles, and most deserved the award!
It’s Cath’s freshman year at college, and she’s being forced to get a real roommate instead of her built-in twin sister Wren. Cath’s roommate, Reagan, is a junior and appears to come attached with a boyfriend because Levi is always there even when Reagan is not. As everything Cath’s ever known is changing and she’s worried about her dad, who’s prone to forgetting his basic needs when he’s being a workaholic, and sister, who’s embroiled in the rampant drinking and partying college is famous for. Cath’s interests tend to be more literary as she is a fairly infamous fanfiction writer of Simon Snow and the love portrayed by the two main character boys, Simon and Baz (a fictional representation of Harry Potter perchance and a Harry/Draco slasher?) One of Cath’s classes is in fiction writing, but when Cath gets a failing grade because of writing some fanfiction, she can’t bring herself to finish her final short story. Luckily or unluckily, her father is put into the hospital and Cath gets a much needed break. However, her life is spiraling even more out of control as her sister has been speaking with the mother who abandoned them. It’s a story of self-identity, romance, and finding your own independence, and thereby finding your own strengths.
I loved this book! I loved that it also took fanfiction, which could be a red-headed stepchild among authors and writers, and gave it something more legitimate. Fanfiction might still be big, but it was huge during the Harry Potter fandom years. Other fan faves have had tons of fanfiction too. Some of them Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Twilight (in fact, fanfiction started 50 Shades of Grey and The Mortal Instruments series). I don’t know what the current fanfiction fad is, but take a quick google if you’re interested. (Watch out for those stories rated Adult!) Another unique thing about Fangirl is that of it’s audience. There has been some disagreement over it in the library world, but not too much. Fangirl is atypical YA, as it is actually more of the New Adult genre that has been emerging in recent years. (However, teens DO need to be able to read about older teens who are in college, so I fully support keeping it in the YA area.) It straddles the gap between YA fiction, which is usually typical teenage years, to transition into the adult collection. I think there should be a lot more books about this time, and Fangirl does it so well without dwelling on the mass of commitments that usually make the college years rather boring, as if it’s all about classes and schoolwork, or overwhelming, like when you add sports, romance, work, school, social activities…and the list could go on. Teen readers who are looking for that little bit of something more or maybe just looking over the next horizon will find Fangirl a book to pick up, especially if you’re the quirky, writer/reader type.