Let me start with the obvious: I am a grown-assed lady who likes to read Children’s and Young Adult fiction. I am filled with it, moved by it, in a way different from other genres. Maybe it is nostalgia – remembering how deeply books touched me and shaped who I was becoming when I was young. If it is nostalgia, it is a special, visceral kind of nostalgia, because often times reading these books as an adult still turns me inside out, gives me goosebumps, infects my dreams, and makes me snivel like…well, like me.
Reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell was a stomach-twisting, swoonful (yes, that’s a word now) delight. Here, two teenage outsiders find each other and themselves with such electricity and believability that I felt with them and fell for them. Eleanor is bare, raw emotion – with her tangled self image and her sense of self constantly denigrated by a superficial world, a mother deeply subjugated in an abusive relationship, a father who is less than disengaged, classically cruel high schoolers, and a diabolical step-father. She is complicated and full of beauty.
All respect to Wally Lamb and his amazing effort in She’s Come Undone, this book is Exhibit A in the case of why women’s voices are essential to capture and reflect true female experience. There is something extra special…extra authentic…about Eleanor through the voice of Rainbow Rowell.