The cover of Eleanor and Park has this review from New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman:
This sexy, tender romance thrums with punk rock and true love. Readers will swoon.
Eleanor and Park, set in the 80’s, is the story of two misfit teenagers who share and preference for punk rock and comic books and who fall madly, deeply, and I will admit, tenderly in love. They meet on the school bus. When every other kid on the bus treats Eleanor, a large redhead with a flamboyant style, cruelly, Park begrudgingly offers to let her sit with him. Day after day he tolerates her. Day after day she endures heartless classmates and an almost unimaginably abusive home life. But when Eleanor and Park discover their shared interest in comic books and alternative music, an unlikely friendship slowly blossoms. That friendship eventually turns into love.
Park falls in love with Eleanor for all the right reasons. She is funny, smart, and easy to talk to. Yet, in spite of his love for her, he struggles a little with embarrassment over her misfit ways. Eleanor’s love for Park seems equally un-shallow, but after years of abuse and neglect, she struggles to let herself get close to Park. And while attraction for each other definitely grows out of their friendship and plays a part in their story, Eleanor and Park seem to be really in love – not just in “He’s so cute/ she’s so hot.” teenage love. I like that about this book.
I also was struck by the story of Eleanor’s tragic home life. I felt like this book gave me a deeper insight into what life is like for some kids. For that reason alone, I’m glad I read it. I have renewed empathy for some of my students.
Rowell does a masterful job of describing what it is like to be young and in love. But there is an intensity to Eleanor and Park’s love that, as a parent, I find unsettling. I know that in our culture many people see young love as a right of passage. We have glorified high school romance to the point that most young girls (and guys) feel like their high school years aren’t complete until they find that one special (for now) someone. This is just the kind of books that feeds into that way of thinking.
I think in her review of this book, Gayle Forman is spot on. This book is well-written, full of beautiful and heartbreaking writing. I guess the questions is whether or not you want your teen or preteen daughter to swoon over a sexy, tender, punk rock love story. For mine, I’m going to go with no. There’s a lot of great literature out there that does not perpetuate the myth that young love is what teenage life is all about. I think I’ll encourage my kids in that direction.
Despite her horrible home life, most of the abuse that Eleanor endures is verbal abuse and neglect. Her stepfather’s violence is mostly hinted at.
YES! Almost all of Rowell’s character’s have filthy mouths and no respect for the Lord’s name. That alone might disqualify this book for a lot of families.
Park and Eleanor have a couple of heavy make out sessions, but remarkably they don’t go all the way. However, this is due more to a lack of opportunity than a moral compass. There is also language that is extremely vulgar and sexual in nature.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,..”
“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
“You think that holding someone hard will bring them closer. You think that you can hold them so hard that you’ll still feel them, embossed on you, when you pull away…Every time Eleanor pulled away from Park, she felt the gasping loss of him.”
“Or maybe he thought now, he just didn’t recognize all those other girls. The way a computer drive will spit out a disk if it doesn’t recognize the formatting…When he touched Eleanor’s hand, he recognized her. He knew.”
“They talked about the White Album on the way to school, but just as an excuse to stare at each other’s mouths.”
“He’d thought he was over caring about what people thought of him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He kept finding new ways to betray her.”
“He felt himself smile. He felt like something warm spilled in his heart.”
Here’s what we are writing about over at Charming Farming.
Recently a blog post has been floating around on my Facebook newsfeed. It was written by the mother of three teenage boys, and it serves as a warning to teenage girls who post scantily-clad photos of themselves on social media. You go, Mom of boys! I agree with her family’s practice of looking at their boys’ social media, and I agree with everything this woman had to say. Yet, I felt like there was something missing from the conversation. There is often something missing from conversations about purity and modesty. That something is boys. Teenage girls get lots of admonitions, as well they should, to be modest, to not tempt boys with alluring photos and skimpy outfits. But I have yet to come across a viral blog post that looks at the responsibility of boys in the whole purity equation. So, here goes….
Girls don’t wear enough clothes…
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The Giver is a dystopian novel set around the life of a young boy, Jonah, and his community. In this community everything is regulated – careers, family size, emotion, even the temperature. At the age 12, when all children are assigned to their life’s work, Jonah is given the job of The Giver. The Giver is the one person entrusted with all the memories of humanity. For decades all other citizens have been denied knowledge of the pain, fear, and joy people experienced before the community was “perfected.” They are given only “the sameness.” The job of The Giver is both beautiful and torturous. It also gives Jonah an understanding that no one else in his community could possibly have – an understanding that makes it impossible to go back to the content, secure life he knew before.
The Giver is not exactly pop fiction. It has been a classic staple in American middle school classrooms since it won The Newberry Award in 1994. I decided to read it because my younger daughter was reading it for school. I don’t read everything she reads, but I knew The Giver was considered a classic for a reason. I just didn’t know what the reason was.
I was blown away by this novel. The parallels between Jonah’s community and our modern culture are chilling. The people of Jonah’s community possess the technology to regulate everything. This allows them to avoid pain, but it also costs them any true joy. It robs them of any real attachment to others and of a conscience. While our modern technology isn’t quite that all-pwerful, it can be spectacularly numbing. There is a particular scene in the novel that drives this point home dramatically. I don’t want to give anything away, but the scene illustrates how seemingly decent people can commit horrific acts of cruelty and violence because these acts are the societal norm.
The Giver is a must for young readers, but it should be coupled with discussion. There is a movie version of The Giver coming out starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Parent and kids will likely want to read and discuss the book before seeing the Hollywood version of this story.
LANGUAGE – No. It’s a perfect world, no need to curse.
VIOLENCE – The people in this novel live in near perfect harmony, but not with out eliminating some problems. There is so graphic violence, but there is at least one disturbing scene.
SEXUALCONTENT– The “stirrings” of the adolescent citizens are controlled with medication. Some parents might want to discuss what is meant by “stirrings.”
SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS – None
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Why do you think dystopian literature so popular?
2. Is there something appealing about living in a pleasant world with no pain, or does it sound too boring?
3. What do the people of the community lose by having “the sameness?”
4. Do you think Jonah’s parent’s love him?
5. Why is what happens to Baby Gabe so disturbing and shocking?
6. Why would being The Giver be so hard? Would you rather to be a Giver with all that knowledge or a community member living in blissful ignorance?
7. Why is free will essential to being truly good, happy, or free?
“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
“We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”
“I liked the feeling of love,’ [Jonas] confessed. He glanced nervously at the speaker on the wall, reassuring himself that no one was listening. ‘I wish we still had that,’ he whispered. ‘Of course,’ he added quickly, ‘I do understand that it wouldn’t work very well. And that it’s much better to be organized the way we are now. I can see that it was a dangerous way to live.”
“It’s the choosing that’s important, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you mean when you say ‘the whole world’ or ‘generations before him.’I thought there was only us. I thought there was only now.”