Review: Eleanor & Park (JUST READ IT RIGHT NOW.)

If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park, don’t even read this review.  Go read the book.  NOW.  Don’t waste another second of your bleak and loveless life reading my blog when you could have this book on your Kindle within seconds.  But, if you insist (or you’ve read the book), here you go:

Writing a review for this book has been incredibly difficult for me. My first review for it was one word. Just, “Eff.” Then I expanded it to three words, “Holy Effing Eff.” Then I thought really long and hard about it, and decided that this book deserved many, many, many more words.

See, here’s the thing: poverty is very hard to honestly describe. While I was still a supervisor for a homeless shelter, I often looked for books that I thought I could give to our residents to help them pass the painfully long hours of the day, and maybe help them think about their lives at the same time. This was doubly true for the teens, who were hit with the double whammy of being homeless as well as often being years behind in reading. I can still remember the time that I allowed myself to be roped into reading the Twilight Saga so that I could talk books with one of them.

Ye Gods.

I cannot say, with words at least, how much I wish this book had existed then.

Let me say again that poverty is so painfully difficult to describe with any honesty, without sounding psychotic or like you are exaggerating. It’s even harder to explain the complex emotions that go along with poverty, or the way that they shape who you are and change you. To respond to the question, “why do you always seem angry?” with “because I’m poor” sounds crass. To respond to the girls in the locker room teasing your hair for being crap with, “it’s because I’m poor” seems ridiculous. To explain the fact that your clothes don’t fit and you always look weird with, “well, we’ve talked about how poor I am” is just so. Intensely. Lame. No one gets it unless they’ve washed their clothes by hand in cold water using dish soap, or rubbed vanilla behind their ears to cover the smell of lack-of-soap. But Rainbow Rowell paints this incredibly vivid picture of how poverty shapes not just Eleanor’s world but Eleanor as a character, and it is perfect. I mean, this book is the effing Statue of David of books. Rowell is the effing Michelangelo of writers.

I have to admit I’m just the slightest bit bitter, because if I ever publish anything I know it will not hold a candle to the absolute priceless beauty of this story. God help me. I cannot imagine how to do it better.

But back to the story itself. Eleanor is a girl living in abject poverty, having just moved back in with the mother who has lost her sense of self and the uncle who drinks away all the money needed to keep the kids in clothes with bellies full. Top that off with being the new girl in school, and you’ve got a pretty toxic situation that all of the kids back at the shelter know all too cruelly well. But Eleanor’s saving grace might just be the boy who reluctantly lets her sit next to him on the bus, the cool, stable, upper-middle class Park. Their unlikely friendship turns into a bittersweet teen romance which turns so many stereotypes on their heads.

I don’t want to spoil a second of the story, but let’s just say that my favorite moment is the second best Star Wars reference in literature. (The best still belongs to the fabulous Gae Polisner.) This book made me laugh and cry like an idiot at work, and I didn’t even mind because if anyone had asked me what was up I could’ve shoved the book on them in giggly tearful fangirl glory and sat on them until they read it so we could talk about how absolutely perfect it is.

No, really. I’m a college student and a mother of three and work part time and all my money is the most precious money in the world, but I will spend that precious money on spare copies of this book because the next time a student at work tells me that no one really understands what it’s like to be poor and just trying to make your life worth living, and they just want to give up hope, I will give them this book and say, “someone gets it.”

Someone gets it.

Sometimes, that is priceless.

Sometimes, it’s all you need.

This book could not be more highly recommended. Five big fat smacks-you-in-the-feels-and-you-love it stars, but 5 isn’t enough.

Honest Conversations: Revised, Expanded, and being GIVEN AWAY!

“There is a love that is so deep it surpasses understanding. It is so enormous and boundless it could utterly destroy you with its force. It is a love like the ocean. In the shallows it looks harmless, but caught in the undertow it will drag you away from everything you know and enjoy and bury you in a world you’d never imagined.”

“This is God.”

Honest Conversation.  As I wrote yesterday, revising it has been a strange journey for me.  I came across the above passage this morning and it was one of those moments where I forgot having written something that still grips at my chest now.  Passages like that remind me of the importance of this book just as much as the passages about being a gay Christian do.  Why?  Because there’s a side of God that many people in the Church too easily overlook, the violently affectionate God who longs for all of his children, even the ones we’d rather not have be a part of the family.  This is why I wrote that book, and it’s why I still believe in it and want it to be successful.  I want to share a taste of the God who changed my heart and my life and brought me back alive when I was dead in my life, the God who dragged me out to sea like the undertow and brought me back to shore a wholly new person.  The God whose love in me has allowed me to see and experience things I would have never been able to in my own power.

So I’m going to be doing a giveaway of Honest Conversation.  The giveaway will be twofold:  first, I’ll randomly give away copies to two people who review becoming. on Amazon or Goodreads before January 10th (the prospective release date for Honest Conversation).  People who review it on both sites (copy and paste, y’all) will get entered twice.  People who also paste a link of it being reviewed on their blog to my author fan page on Facebook will get entered THREE times.  I’ll also be giving free copies of Honest Conversation to trustworthy reviewers.  So if you know someone who book-blogs and would be interested in reading Honest Conversation, please send them the link to this post.

One of the additional blessings of my Kickstarter campaign having gone so well is that I’ve got enough money to be able to afford this giveaway- so a big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed.

Plus as an additional happy part of the giveaway, I’ll be adding in some as of now unnamed goodies, so stay tuned!

***(Anyone who already has Honest Conversation coming to them as a part of the Kickstarter campaign can request another book of their choice.)