eleanor & park this book reached in and made me write bad poetry. it reminded me of the early days before the PTSD ripped the good ones away. the taste of you, milky-sour after iced coffee, constellations of freckles, listening to Morrissey late at Marmion's white, sandy beach, while the moon set vermillion and i didn't want to ever go home because i was home. this book reminded me of the early outrage when you confronted the reality of my childhood but mostly it reminded me of hours of kisses, stubble rash, that hickey you placed - just fucking so - in the centre of my forehead because i dared you, because i didn't think it was possible to get a hickey there and we laughed and laughed. the PTSD takes and never gives back but sometimes words reach along back alleys anyway so i'll read and re-read and love you more than this bad poem could convey.
- Pia Ravenari.
Let’s be honest though, I never need an actual excuse to write bad poetry. Apparently I just do it.
Also, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is awesome, and I read it out loud to my own Park in about five days and towards the end he started making keyboard-smash noises out loud and saying things like ‘SOMETHING BAD IS GONNA HAPPEN OH MY GOD THESE GUYS ARE THE CUTEST OH MY GOD I AM SO PARK’ and I realised I’d fallen in love with a fangirl.
The Rainbow Rowell Fandom
Why is it—and Eleanor & Park fan fiction—not a thing? Because it should be. Seriously.
by Fiel Estrella
There’s a book called Eleanor & Park coming out this month. Actually, it’s been out for most of 2012 via UK publisher Orion, but a brand new American edition with the best cover ever is being released by St. Martin’s Press. It’s about first love, rock music in the ’80s, mixes, comics, real-people problems, saving lives and so much else. In it, two high school outsiders—eccentric, stoic new girl Eleanor with her wild red hair and quiet, half-Korean Park with his bright green eyes—at first feel like they’re stuck with each other on the bus to school (also known as hell) but eventually bond over similar interests and wordless conversations that turn into actual exchanges of words until they become friends, and…yeah, I’m not about to tell you the whole story.
And if you’re wondering whether it’s any good, well, a certain John Green read it and it liked it. No. Big. Deal. And look at that cover blurb by Gayle Forman!
Author Rainbow Rowell also has a new new book coming out September called Fangirl. Yes. Exactly. Let that sink in. It’s exactly what you think it’s about. Fangirling alert! Finally—our actual lives fictionalized! (Well, mostly. The main character does, apparently, fall in love, and we all know how that works for most of us IRL…)
And the cover is illustrated by artist Noelle Stevenson, who you may know as gingerhaze, creator of epic comic Nimona and various other adorable and hilarious art. Double fangirling alert! Even Rainbow Rowell couldn’t keep still.
Anyway. When I finished Eleanor & Park, all I could think over and over was WHY DO I KEEP LETTING BOOKS BREAK MY HEART?! (But in a good, reel-from-the-feels, this-book-is-so-good-oh-man sort of way, of course.)
I was about to ask Rainbow Rowell this when she agreed to an interview, but thought better of it. More pressing questions had to be answered. Plus, you know, all this deal about being professional, and all, whatever that means. Here, Rainbow talks to Elision about why Eleanor & Park had to be set in the ’80s, her own personal mix tapes, plans for a sequel, Fangirl, fan fiction and fandoms before the twenty-first century. You know, really important stuff.
How did you get your start in writing?
I think I realized when I was pretty young—grade school—that I was better at writing than I was at other things. So I was just drawn toward it. I worked on my high school paper, studied journalism, then worked as a newspaper columnist for many years before starting my first novel, Attachments. And that was almost an experiment: “Can I do this?”
What inspired you to write a misfits-in-love story like Eleanor & Park?
I have always, always wanted to write a first love story. I feel like, when you’re 16, you have the greatest-ever capacity for romantic love. You fall in love with every cell of your body. But, at the same time, at that age, you have so little to offer the person you love. You don’t belong to yourself quite yet—you still have school and your parents, you don’t even have your own space…
And you also know that what you’re feeling probably won’t last. First love usually doesn’t. There’s a built-in tragedy to falling (truly) in love when you’re 16. It’s like every 16-year-old in love is either Romeo or Juliet. That is what I wanted to write about.
Were you anything like Eleanor in high school?
Yeah, definitely. She’s harder than I was. Sharper, more cynical. I had a really rough time in junior high school, but I think I was still less guarded than Eleanor. What I really ended up borrowing from my own life were some of the cultural details—her clothes, the books and comics she was reading. I had a boy who lived a street over who introduced me to the X-Men.
Give us a quick summary of how your own experiences at first love played out.
I didn’t have anything in high school as dramatic as what Eleanor and Park have. I did have a high school boyfriend whom I liked a lot—and who was pretty romantic, especially in retrospect. (We went to lots of indie movies and laser light shows.) But my dramatic love story is with my husband. We met in the seventh grade and were close friends all through junior high, high school and college. When we finally confessed our feelings for each other, it made everything that had come before seem like one long build-up. Like we’d been dancing around each other for eight years.
Aside from genres, how is writing a young adult novel different from writing books aimed at older readers? Is there more pressure to please teen readers or adults?
I don’t really think about the difference; maybe I should. When I started Eleanor & Park, I didn’t even realize I was writing a YA novel. It was just, “This is the story I want to tell.” I was a bit more savvy when I wrote Fangirl. By that time, I’d sold Eleanor & Park as YA and worked with a YA editor, but it’s still the same approach: Get inside the characters’ heads, try to make it feel real.
Eleanor & Park is a book driven by music. Does your writing process include listening to songs, and did you choose any particular types of music while working on it?
Yes! I always build character playlists while I’m writing. It’s like a game I play with myself when I’m sitting alone with the manuscript for hours. Sometimes I use a specific song to help keep me inside a scene, even if it takes a few days or weeks to write it. The song becomes an emotional anchor for me. With Eleanor & Park, I listened to a lot of ’80s music—some of that early alternative music that was so exciting to me at the time. But I also listened to a lot of music that just felt like the characters. For Eleanor, that was The Sunset Tree by the Mountain Goats. Also, lots of Modest Mouse. For Park, it was The Cure and The Cure and The Cure. (Robert Smith is definitely Park’s patronus.) Also lots of open-hearted, melodic British music. The Magic Numbers and Badly Drawn Boy.
You can listen to my playlists on Spotify.
And read about them on my blog.
Did you get or make any mix tapes when you were their age? What were the tracklists and art like?
Yeah. I did. I took it Very Seriously. I’d make special covers/liners and name each side. Like: “The world is not a bottomless pit” on one side, and “Yes it is” on the other. (I’m looking at them now.) There’s also “Curiouser and Curiouser”/”Disenchanted Evening.” [Ms. Rowell was gracious enough to send us photos!]
For a while, I got really into buying odd 45 rpm records at thrift shops and incorporating sound effects and spoken word stuff into my mixed tapes.
THIS IS WHAT WE DID BEFORE THE INTERNET. THERE WERE SO MANY HOURS IN A DAY THEN.
If the book took place in real life, almost 27 years would have passed. Where do you imagine Eleanor and Park are now?
I know exactly where they are now, but I don’t want to say because I really, really want to write a sequel. I started plotting the sequel when I was writing this book—almost as a way to comfort myself, because I knew these characters wouldn’t get a clean, neat ending.
Seventeen-year-olds don’t get endings; they get beginnings.
Someday I want to come back and write about Eleanor and Park at 32.
You seem to incorporate a lot of experimenting with different settings time-wise in your writing. Was it important to you that Eleanor & Park be set in the ’80s and [your first novel, aimed at older readers] Attachments be set in 1999? How so?
Attachments had to be set in 1999 because it’s about an IT guy who falls in love with a girl while he’s monitoring her office email—and I needed the characters to be naive about email and Internet privacy.
With Eleanor & Park, I wanted to capture that time in the mid-’80s when alternative music and comic books were finally seeping into Middle America. That feeling—it was almost foreboding—that INTERESTING THINGS were happening out there.
What can you tell us about your upcoming book Fangirl?
It’s about a girl who doesn’t think she’s good at life—but she’s really good at being a fan. She feels more comfortable in fandom. She’s been writing fan fiction about the same two characters—Simon and Baz—since she was 12, and she’s gotten kind of famous in that world.
The book is about her first year of college. She’s got a mean roommate (with a too-friendly boyfriend). Her twin sister’s ignoring her, her dad’s a mess, her writing professor is pushing her too hard…She keeps having to rise to the occasion, but all she really wants to do is stay in her room and write more Simon/Baz.
Also, she falls in love. (Because, in my books, somebody always falls in love.)
How is being a twenty-first century fangirl different from being one before Y2K? And how are they similar?
IT’S SO MUCH LESS LONELY! Pre-Internet, if you got really into a show or a book or a comic, you were lucky to know ONE other person who also liked it, and chances are, that person didn’t like it as much as you did. Now you can watch a show—Sherlock, for example—fall in love with it, then INSTANTLY connect with everyone else in the world who loves it. You can be part of a community. Immediately. So things have changed, but the feelings are the same…
Like “shipping.” I didn’t have that word in my life until a year or two ago. But it perfectly describes my lifelong relationship with fictional characters. Also, the idea of writing fan fiction. I was writing fan fiction in junior high—but I didn’t know that anyone else was. I didn’t know that it was a universal brain activity among certain kinds of girls. (And boys.)
What are some fandoms you’re a part of?
Since I discovered Internet fandom, the two that I’ve immersed myself in are Harry Potter and BBC’s Sherlock. But I’m much more comfortable lurking than I am participating. So mostly I just read fan fiction and follow people on Tumblr. Every once in a while, I’ll be so blown away by something that I can’t help but comment on it.
How would you feel if any fan fiction based on your work comes up?
I WOULD LOVE THAT SO MUCH. OH MAN. I’m not sure if my work lends itself to fic, but I would LOVE it. If anyone ever made fan art for me, I might faint. (Because I know what that means. How strongly you have to feel about characters to want to add to their story.)
Do you get any fan fiction ideas yourself for the shows or ships you like? What has been the most elaborate?
Yes. I’m ridiculous. I’m always trying to come up with stories for my favorite supporting characters, like Molly on Sherlock—or characters who don’t get a fair shake in canon (MALFOY). And I always want everyone to fall in love, even when that is NOT the author’s intent.
What great books have you read lately, YA or otherwise?
I loved Where She Went by Gayle Forman. And Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I’m reading a lot of comics right now. Catching up on Fables and Saga.
What is the most important advice you’ve ever gotten/given when it comes to writing?
Write a lot. Write something you’re scared to write. That’s the best advice I can give: If you have an idea, and you can’t stop thinking about it, but something about it scares you half to death—WRITE THAT.
Eleanor & Park comes out February 26th, 2013. In the meantime, say hi to Rainbow Rowell on her website.
“I don't think I even breathe when we're not together. Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it's been sixty hours since I've taken a breath. That's probably why I'm so crappy, and why I snap at you. All I do when we're apart is think about you, and all I do when we're together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I'm so out of control, I can't help myself. I'm not even mine anymore, I'm yours, and what if you decide that you don't want me? How could you want me like I want you?”—Eleanor & Park- Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
How many EEP!s do we give? 4.5 (out of 5)
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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.
What We Thought:
Oh my goodness. I’ve basically deleted and retyped what I want to say about this book approximately two hundred thousand times. The simple gist of it is- I can not put into words how amazing this book is. I’m literally astounded. Eleanor and Park is definitely going to be a novel I read over and over again.
When I first read the synopsis for Eleanor and Park on goodreads, I was ready to dive into a real love story. But this book isn’t just a love story. Rainbow Rowell(okay, how nifty is that name?) tosses other important themes in there as well, like relationships, abuse and bullying. Although these things are just kind of a bit of a side plot, they affect Park and Eleanor’s relationship along the way.
Another thing I absolutely love about this book was the fact that Park and Eleanor aren’t two average conventional characters. The story is set in 1986, where Eleanor is the weird new girl in school who dresses in mens clothing and has wild, unruly, red hair, and Park is the half-asian, half-white kid who is accepted only because he once dated the popular girl in school. It’s so refreshing to see an author not write about a boy and girl who are stereotypically “attractive” within society’s standards, and actually be able to pull it off flawlessly. I’d also like to throw in that Eleanor and Park’s relationship was definitely not insta-love. (Can I get a hallelujah to that?) In fact, they don’t even talk to each other for the first few weeks that they sit beside each other on the bus. When they finally do get talking, and eventually hold hands (I have never read a more steamy hand holding experience in my entire life), you find that their relationship is anything but normal. It’s strange and silly and a lot confusing at times, which only makes this novel more gripping.
Any who, everyone should go read this book. Thanks for reading!
Eleanor & Park
I just read Eleanor & Park, a novel by Rainbow Rowell. I picked it up because John Green said it would make me remember how it felt to fall in love with a novel, and boy have i missed that very special kind of magic lately. Needless to say, he was right. This book has nothing you could imagine, but everything you could possibly need in a YA novel. The characters are honest and brilliant, the pop culture references are incredibly witty, and I held my breath for the last ten pages because i didn’t want it to end.
“And he’s expected her to feel like heaven, plus nirvana, plus that scene in Willy Wonka where Charlie starts to fly.” This is one of the MANY lines i highlighted throughout the book. SERIOUSLY y’all need to read this book. I’m jealous you get to read it for the first time; It’s that kind of magic.
I just read a whole book in one sitting.
A non “how to be a first year 6th grade teacher” related book.
I came home on a Friday night exhausted and randomly read a New York Times review for “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell that popped up on my tumblr feed as I ate dinner. The review was written by one of my favorite authors John Green and it was so enticing that I immediatly bought the book on my kindle and started reading. and reading. and reading. 4ish hours later I’ve finished it.
For the first time in months I spent 4 hours without once worrying about work for school or feeling guilty about what I should be doing for school.
For the first time in a long time I read a book that beautifully let me indulge in the nostalgia of being 16 and in love. Which I was once. A book that once finished, sent me rushing to the comfort of the music of my life, the memories of bittersweet teenage moments, and a time when the controlling aspect of my life was determining who I was. Sometimes a great story sends us reeling back to the past, looking at the moments in our lives that mirror those of the characters we’ve suddenly, and somewhat irrationally become attached to. Whether resurrecting fond memories or painful ones, for me the best stories end introspectively, with a reflection of why I feel connected and/or effected by what I’ve just completed.
Tomorrow I will wake up and return to the constant, incessant, overwhelming worry and guilt of not spending every living, breathing moment working on something for my classroom. But not tonight. Thank you Rainbow Rowell & John Green for the respite from my life and the opportunity read and reflect on such a beautiful piece of work.