Tag Archives: Eleanor and Park

My Printzables

ImageEarly on in the game, I realized that I would not be able to read everything I wanted for both the Newbery Award and the Printz Award, so I chose the Newbery. The books are shorter, for one thing, and I helped to run our library system’s Mock Newbery Club for five years before I became a selector, so I have more experience with that competition.

This is not to say that I haven’t read for the Printz, however. I am more likely to read a Young Adult (YA) book on my own anyway, so it is not a burden to do so. The Michael L. Printz Award is given to the best book written for teens in each calendar year, and if you’ve seen the Hunger Games movies, you’ll know that YA authors are doing some great work and seeing substantial commercial success. The Printz Award is looking for literary quality, rather than popularity, though. One big difference between the Printz and the Newbery is that the Printz can be awarded to any author, regardless of nationality.

I’ve categorized all of the following YA books that were published in 2013 into four groups, along with some short comments. Almost all of those that I read have been reviewed on this blog. If not, there was probably a reason.

ImageGroup One: The Series. First of all, here are the books that I liked (or sometimes loved) very much, but I feel that they are so dependent on their prequels and/or sequels that they cannot stand on their own:

Across a Star-Swept Sea, by Diana Peterfreund (Second in a fun series.)

The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson (Third in a great trilogy.)

The Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare (Third in a fabulous trilogy.)

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater (Maggie never disappoints. Second in a wonderful series.  Complex characters.)

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger (Fun series derived from her adult series “The Parasol Protectorate.”)

The Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer (So very literary. Wonderful, but dependent on House of the Scorpion.)

Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta (Third in THE trilogy. “The Lumatere Chronicles” is THE series for older teens and adults.)

ImageGroup Two: Not winners. Here is another list of titles that I just do not find literary enough for the award. Some of these are top contenders on other lists, but I feel that there are better titles this year. Although they are not my picks for an award, a few were very good reads. If you’d like more information about a title in this list that I did not review, let me know.

All Our Pretty Songs, by Sarah McCarry- So many drugs, and I can’t quite remember the plot.

Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal- I liked this, but not as much as many others did.

The Golden Day, by Ursula Dubosarsky- Characters too young; not enough character development.

The Kingdom of Little Wounds, by Susann Cokal- Absolutely not. This is an adult book—for adults with strong stomachs. What was Candlewick thinking? The characters are teens because they lived in a time when girls married at 13 and were happy to live to age 30.

More Than This, by Patrick Ness- Loads of fun, but derivative. Not as literary as others.

 Rapture Practice, by Aaron Hartzler- Nicely done memoir. I just liked other things better.

Reality Boy, by A.S. King- A compelling story by an exceptional author, but not a favorite this year. I loved her Everybody Sees the Ants.

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian. Great character development with a weak ending. Much better than you’re thinking.

The Sin-Eater’s Confession, by Ilsa J. Bick- A rugged read. I could not get over the author’s bigoted depiction of Christians.

The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson- Oh, so pretentious. Many experts disagree, but I did not like any of the characters. It reminded me of the values expressed in Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence: artists are exempt from “middle-class morality.”

ImageGroup Three: I ran out of time. Books that are on many top Printz prediction lists that I did not read, although I would like to, are:

Charm & Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick [Update! Please see review on January 26, 2014]

Picture Me Gone, by Meg Rosoff

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein (Loved the first one.)

Winger, by Andrew Smith

I actually had some of these on my nighttable, but I just ran out of time.

ImageGroup Four: The winners! That leaves me with this list of six favorites for the year, two by one author!

All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry- Tense, gritty. Great main character in a unique story.

Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang- This is actually a pair of graphic novels based on the Boxer Rebellion in China, and it works incredibly well! Complex and surprising. Will the committee consider it one work?

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell- Ripped my heart out. My emotions were completely engaged. Tremendous character development. This is my top pick of the year.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell- A three-layer novel with great characters. Fun, engaging; engrossing story.

The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee- Lush writing, beautiful setting, and a strong main character.

Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepetys- A true coming-of-age story with an exceptional setting.

In summary, my favorite three, in order, are probably:

1)      Eleanor & Park

2)      The Midnight Dress

3)      Fangirl

All of these favorites are great reads for adults and teens, and these authors are among the best anywhere. Go check them out!

We’re making a party out of the ALA Children’s Media Awards at our library. Tune into the webcast here by 8:00 on Monday morning, January 27th. No matter which titles garner the medals, all the readers win!

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are completely my own and do not reflect those of my employer, several friends, or the professional medal-watch bloggers. But we have fun.

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Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

In the latest installment of Cheryl Gets a Smart Phone, I have learned how to download and listen to an MP3 audiobook on my Droid! Let’s just bask in that glow of accomplishment before we even get to the review of the book. I had to go stand in the Digital Librarians’ office to download the software. We call this room the DigiDen, a small room filled with happily busy geeks, pooling all of their creative ideas and techy know-how. It’s heady stuff, and it’s just down the hall from me. Anyhow, several of them are Droid users, so I stood there with my phone in hand saying, “Now it says this. What do I press?” After a few steps and some great advice, I was ready to go. I actually downloaded the book in the Food Lion parking lot the next night.

So, now that I’ve congratulated myself on my ever-increasing knowledge (of names of tech-savvy Droid users whom I can harass), let’s move on to the very worthy audiobook.

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is a love story. It’s also a book about parents’ new partners, child abuse and neglect, and several other gritty topics. Eleanor has just returned home after a year of living with family friends. Her new stepfather threw her out when she expressed her negative opinion of his treatment of her mother. Unfortunately for everyone, Eleanor has several younger siblings who continued to live with their mother and this drunken, abusive creep. Not too far away, Park lives with his deliriously happily married parents, an ex-Marine and a Korean beautician. Although Park is short and quiet, the kids at school leave him alone because he and the bully, Steve, have been friends since they were little kids. The first day that Eleanor gets on the bus, wearing ill-fitting thrift store clothing, no one wants to let her sit beside them. Finally Park, very ungraciously, allows her to sit by him.

As these two very different teens begin to crack open the doors to their private worlds, a very tender love story begins, a story so unlikely that they hesitate to admit it even to themselves, let alone their classmates or their family. Eleanor, in particular, lives in such extreme poverty and fear that shame keeps her from revealing any details of her life. As they share a love of music and comic books, their relationship becomes obvious to the outside world, and the world comes rushing in. Everyone has an opinion, some expected and some quite surprising. Tragically, they come to realize that people their age are powerless to control their own lives. However, they can make courageous— but painful— decisions.

The blistering language in parts of this book is entirely appropriate for the situation. Rowell’s brilliant writing packs an emotional wallop, and you will become completely invested in the characters, despising some and treasuring others. The plot unfolds slowly, building tension and dread. The voice alternates between the two main characters, allowing the reader to experience life and love with both of them. Since I listened to the audiobook, I have to give kudos to the readers, Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra— especially Sunil. I cannot imagine Park with any other voice, and now I want to listen to everything Mr. Malhotra has ever narrated.

Eleanor and Park is definitely at the top of my list of teen fiction so far this year. Although written for teens, I can’t imagine an adult who would not appreciate it even more, particularly because the adult characters are fully fleshed out, which is not typical in young adult literature.  If you don’t object to the language, go right now and buy it or put it on hold at your library.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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