It’s no secret that Morgan and I were high school sweethearts during the 1980’s. After several trusted friends insisted I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, I was happy to follow their advice. As soon as I was done, I knew I’d found the perfect story to pass along to my husband.
Jennifer: One of the things made clear by looking at cover of this novel is that Eleanor and Park enjoy their music. In many ways, their relationship is built around educating one another about their favorite bands. This vividly took me back to my high school days and to the beginning of our courtship. I knew this particular aspect of the story was likely to draw you in, but since you’re the musician in this relationship, I’m curious to hear your specific thoughts on the use of music within this story.
Morgan: Well, since we met at a dance, I should say so. You and I exchanged music as well, which made me smile when I read about their mix tapes. If I remember correctly, you got me into Erasure, Information Society, The Outfield and a-ha. I got you into The B-52’s, The Smithereens, and R.E.M. This part of the story sucked me right in as did their sweetly written personalities. I genuinely like these two people and like spending time with them. Since I lived close enough to walk to school most of my life, I didn’t ride the bus to and from like you did. What was life like on the bus? How did the book do when describing the atmosphere?
Jennifer: Riding on the school bus is an experience all it’s own. If you can imagine taking all the social dynamics that are contained within the school and compressing them all inside the bus, you can see how intense things can become. Some of the strongest memories of my time in school took place there. I can remember the bus driver pulling over on more than one occasion to restore order to the chaos. I usually tried my best to stick close to certain friends and ignore the rest, but sometimes trouble would come calling no matter what I did. This book captures those moments so well that I was instantly taken back to those days, even though I’d hadn’t thought about them much since the day I stopped riding the school bus.
“Even if Eleanor could avoid the bus today, even if her fairy godmother showed up with a pumpkin carriage, she’d still have to find a way to get back to school tomorrow morning.
And it’s not like the devil-kids on the bus were going to wake up on the other side of their beds tomorrow. Seriously. It wouldn’t surprise Eleanor if they unhinged their jaws the next time she saw them. That girl in the back with the blond hair and the acid-washed jacket? You could practically see the horns hidden in her bangs. And her boyfriend was possibly a member of the Nephilim.”
Personally, I found several things about Park and his approach with Eleanor that reminded me of you. As a character, I fell in love with him pretty quickly. What are your thoughts on Eleanor?
Morgan: About the bus…I keep thinking of Sixteen Candles, complete with kazoo. I thought Eleanor was the most fully realized of the characters in the book. Even though the POV went back and forth with almost Germanic precision, I felt that it was truly Eleanor’s story. That especially intrigues me since the book begins with Park as an adult seeing her in nearly every distant woman he observes. Eleanor had a heartbreaking story, it was the one filled with the most drama. Having said that, what did you think of Park’s mom?
Jennifer: (laughing) I was this close to incorporating the Sixteen Candles bus scene into my answer. We really are meant to be.
Park’s mom was a great character. Just when I thought I’d figured out everything about her, she would pleasantly surprise me. I think Park learned a lot about his mom as a result of his relationship with Eleanor, and it was a joy to sit back and watch her interactions with both of them. It was clear that Park’s home was a happy and secure place to grow up in.
I haven’t read much Young Adult Romance since I was in high school, but over the past year or two I’ve read some exceptional stories in this genre. I chose Eleanor & Park for you as a test to see what your thoughts were on YA Romance. What was your overall impression of this story? And would you be open to reading another YA if I suggested one?
Morgan: You know, I never really considered that this was a book written for young adults. I have read one other before, Demon Keeper by Royce Buckingham whom I then interviewed for the radio show I had back when it was published in 2007. I love both books, tons of wit and emotion while realistic and captivating. I think I might just become a YA junkie. My first book: 50 shades of Lip Gloss!
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