Sunday, August 17, 2014

Eleanor & Park

Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

Review: I read a very positive review of Eleanor and Park, so when I needed to pick up something to read on a flight, I decided to give it a try. I was very glad I did, because the flight went by so fast and I didn't even realize we were about to touch the ground until the plane hit the tarmac. That might be attributed to good piloting too, but regardless.

Reading this book made me think about all the trigger warning discussions that were happening recently. Not because there's anything graphic in the book, but because it just jolted me into my high school years so hard that I was shocked. There's just this mentality that I could relate to so well that I felt transported back in time. And I think it'll resonate with people who don't think that high schools years were the best time of their lives.

Park is taking a bus to school every morning. He is not unpopular, but he's also not one of the really popular kids. He is the only Asian kid in school and he's smart, but he mostly keeps to himself. Eleanor is new to the school and sits down next to him on the bus. She is chubby and dresses weirdly and hence she is immediately picked on. Slowly, but steadily, Eleanor and Park get to know each other, fall in love, and start dating.

This is a short book and I finished most of it on the plane, but it was cute and heartfelt and fun while it lasted. Not a particularly action-oriented book, but its magic was in how well it brought forth the idea of falling in love for the first time. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What We Lost

Title: What We Lost
Author: Sara Zarr
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Review: Sam is a teenager living in a small town of Pineview and her life is defined by the fact that she is the daughter of the local pastor, Charlie. It's a hot summer and Sam's life is complicated by her alcoholic mother heading into a rehab and her father being too busy to connect with her. A 13-year old girl, Jody, goes missing and Charlie is in the midst of police and media frenzy as he helps the grieving family and becomes their spokesperson.

It's interesting to see the book take a tragedy like a kidnapped girl and make it part of the scene, but not really focus on it. The focus stays on Sam's inner life, even though she takes part in trying to recover Jody, support Jody's family -- especially her older brother Nick with whom she feels a connection.

At first, Sam's inner narration feels overly dramatic. Her emphasis on how she is treated differently by being a pastor's kid seems blown out of proportion. But, eventually, I started to emphasize with her and and her problems start to feel much more real. The book is very character driven, rather than plot driven. The plot is mostly there to give insight into everyone, this is by no means a mystery type book.

I liked watching Sam figure out how to deal with her conflicts and get her life back on track. I thought the ending was much more positive than would be expected, but not so positive that it felt unrealistic. This is a nice, easy novel to read with some interesting character development, but not much plot. I enjoyed it.