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Tag Archives: Young Adult fiction

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) restored my faith in writing. It’s brutally honest, unpretentious. Savagely eviscerating. Exhilarating. Reading it made me lonely and mad and proud; in turns and all at once. Eleanor and Park is a beautiful book – beautiful because it’s true.

It’s a straightforward story: two misfit characters, poor white trash and weird Asian kid, fall in love, but Rainbow Rowell nails it all: plot, character, dialogue, scene. Her characters lay on the page in a spot of sunlight and bloom from spring into full summer in scene after scene after scene. Details strung together make mosaics of story and emotion. Rowell’s writing brings back all the agony of being an imperfect teen. (The bra strap held together with safety pins was the gem that really got me – what woman can’t relate to that?)

The Young Adult rating is just a rating – this book can and should be read by anyone over the age of 14. I wish there was a way to give Eleanor and Park to myself when I was young. As it is, a copy should be given and to every kid out there who is even a little different, and every kid who thinks they aren’t. Whether you are a teen reader, an adult with a teen, or just a citizen of planet Earth, give yourself the gift of reading this book. Eleanor and Park will put you right inside the heads and hearts of two teenagers who are not so different from yourself, and will change you forever.

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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Fiction, Young Adult

 

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Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas

Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas

 

I don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction, but it’s not hard to see why 55% of the people in the U.S. who buy YA books are over 18 years of age:  today’s YA authors have capitalized on a growing thirst in our society for heroes and quests.  Everyone wants to experience, at least once, what it feels like to be important and powerful in this huge, homogeneous world.  At least, that’s part of the appeal, especially for the adults who are trapped in the mundane.  You don’t have to be a fan of fantasy or dystopian fiction to enjoy great YA writing, though.  Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas, is YA fiction at its most impactful.  There is no magic.  There are no vampires.  This book deals directly with the real life stuff of growing up: love, sex, drugs, parents, and school.  And when I say ‘directly’, I mean it. So don’t offer it to your middle-schooler unless you’ve read it first.

Thomas’s premise is this: Steve York, a National Merit Finalist and very smart guy, is caught (again) coming to school stoned.  An astute guidance counselor makes a deal with him:  if Steve will write him a 100 page paper – on any subject – by the end of the school year, he can avoid remedial summer school and graduate with his class.  Steve takes up the challenge reluctantly, but it doesn’t take him long to realize that he does have a story to tell.  The book quickly becomes an interplay between the present narrative and the ‘story within the story’ of how Steve started down the road of drugs and alcohol. It is the act of writing the story that allows Steve to come to terms with the events that changed his life and find some measure of healing.

Thomas does a great job of writing in the voice of a seventeen year old boy without dumbing down the novel.  His protagonist is sharp, witty, and honest.  (Reading a sex scene written in the voice of a teenager was a refreshing change from the slick, racy writing an adult might try for.)  Rats Saw God, published in 1996, is a bit dated, but I found that to be charming.  Steve York’s generation, like mine, was sent reeling by the death of Kurt Cobain, spent a lot of time figuring out how to get tickets to Pearl Jam’s next concert, and generally made a mess out of dating and sex.  This isn’t the meatiest book in the world, but it is a true one.  It’s worth reading just for its great structure, its honesty, and its nerve, but be prepared for a healthy blast of nostalgia.  You may not remember much from the year 1994, but if you read Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas, I’m betting it all comes back to you pretty quickly.

 

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Fiction, Young Adult

 

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