This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
This novel, about high school students in Nebraska falling in love, made me realize how self-centered I was as a teenager (and I’m sure ten years from now I’ll realize how self-centered I am currently). It made me wonder what the lives of my classmates really were like away from the walls of the school. Both Eleanor and Park have complicated back stories, and the reader gets to hear both sides and watch them learn about each other as their relationship develops.
While some elements of this story made me think of my own high school relationships with fondness, it also reminded me of how ridiculous and annoying love can make us sometimes. I guess what I’m trying to articulate is that there’s a reason that only you and the person you’re falling for can hear what you’re saying to each other on the phone (or messaging to each other); when those words are separated from the super-involved feelings (if you’re a 3rd party, say, reading them in a book), the confessions can just seem so ridiculous. Call me cynical, but there were times in this book when I wanted to fast forward past the awkward, “no YOU hang up”s or each character’s lusty descriptions of the other. (I was listening to it as an audiobook so it wasn’t as easy to just skim and skip ahead as it would have been had I been physically reading). 🙂 Maybe it was that I felt like Eleanor and Park would be embarrassed if they realized I was privy to their most private conversations. This awkward feeling usually doesn’t extend to other books or movies, though, so maybe it is the fact that the couple in question is in high school? I can’t quite figure it out…
Regardless, while the story takes place in Nebraska, I felt like it could have taken place in almost any other state. I don’t remember the geography and land playing a vital role in the story; it’s definitely more focused on the teenagers themselves, so I’m not convinced this is the best pick for the 50Nifty list. Since Rowell herself is from Nebraska, I had higher expectations, but they were not met, unfortunately. (In fact, this is the second Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read (the other being Landline), and to be honest, I really did want to like her writing, but I just can’t seem to get behind it. I guess it’s not my favorite.)