Eleanor & Park (CBR5 #29)

I love Rainbow Rowell’s characters. Even when we aren’t meant to like, or agree with them, she manages to fully flesh them out in a way that at the very least makes them relatable. Which, to me, is something to aspire to as a writer. I can only hope that the characters I scribble can someday become so fully fleshed out.

The two main characters, as the title suggests, are Eleanor and Park. Eleanor is the new girl in town. She moves back in with her mother and stepfather after a year’s separation from them in which she lived with friends of the family, her mother has convinced her stepfather to let her return to the family. While having to navigate rebuilding relationships with her younger siblings, she also must navigate a new high school filled with people who – in the way of high school – are always looking to attack the new and different.

Which brings us to Park. He is different .He is different from his brother, from his parents, and from the other kids at school. But he grew up in the neighborhood and his Korean mom, whom his dad met while deployed in the military and everyone has become accustomed to his family. He has perfected the level of friendship and interactions which allow him to fly under the radar. Until Eleanor gets on the bus and the only open seat is next to him.

This is a YA book, and our protagonists go through a pretty typical high school plotline. But, there’s more depth to Eleanor and Park, and to their lives, than you might expect. Unless, of course, you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s work before.

Read it.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

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Catching Fire (CBR5 #28)

You probably already know the plot of the book. By now, with the movie out, it’s well-known.

What I think I’d like to talk about in my review is the theme of love. I wrote a blog post almost two years ago about what I like to think of as pure love, and I think Katniss and her various relationships can explore that quite easily. Most, if not all, of her decisions are based on love.

One of my chief complaints about the movies (although I enjoyed the second so much more than the first) is that they don’t really get into Katniss’s difficulty with emotions.  They do a great job dealing with her fears for everyone’s safety, and that is evident on Jennifer Lawrence’s face every time her character has to think about those who are in peril thanks to her actions in the Games. But JLaw’s Katniss is not the emotionally unavailable Katniss I read in the books.

So let’s talk about the conversation that my group of friends of having, and I’m sure lots of groups are having right now too: Is this really a love triangle? I vote no.

I’ve always been firmly in the camp that Katniss does love Peeta from somewhere in Book 1 (sometime between training camp and finding him in the arena), but that it scares her. Because she had already decided that she would never marry and never have kids and Peeta is the kind of guy who is all about the marrying and the kids. I also agree that while she loves Gale it’s more like the love she has for her family. Katniss is fiercely loyal and loving of her family, as seen by the extent that she loves Prim. And even though their relationship is strained from her mother’s weakness following her father’s death that is still an incredibly strong bond of love. This is where her love for Gale fits, she loves him the way she loves her family. But because Katniss does not have the language to sort out these emotional differences, she sees it as a conflict to the love she feels for Peeta, which is the love that dominates most of her actions.

And because she is so unused to her own emotions she doesn’t know how to process them even as they are influencing every choice she makes. So, she makes herself content to put Peeta off to the side because 1) they share terrible memories and 2) she doesn’t want to hurt him any more than she already has. She goes back to Gale for reassurance and to ‘run’ because he’s the partner she knows in her normal life. But it’s all very complicated because Gale has the feels for her. It’s predominately one-sided.

So, not really a triangle, just a brilliantly complex layered look at love.

Moving on from that, my other complaints about the movie adaptation of the book include that there is no plant book interlude with Peeta, and that really robes some great character development from both of them. And, it’s criminal that the movies cut Madge, because that storyline, and the layers it adds to Haymitch, are some of my favorite stuff in the book.

Also, a growing part of me wishes these books were from Peeta’s POV.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (CBR5 #27)

I’ve started and stopped this review several times. I wanted to pull The Ocean at the End of the Lane apart and put it back together again, because to a certain extent that’s what the book felt like it did to my brain. And I wanted to be able to express that to you – what the moving around of the landscape in my mind to make room for the story of a boy fighting his boyhood foes, and his adulthood ones too, felt like.

I want to talk about how an unnamed narrator can feel like he has a name, and that it’s right on the tip of your tongue, and if you just go back to the book and look it up surely it will be there. And how the world in the novel is so very like the one we’re existing in, with a few fantastical and mythological quirks added in, and what that means to a reader who is not generally a fantasy reader.

Or how you found yourself debating back and forth with yourself whether the Hempstocks were the mother, the maiden and the crone, or if they were the three fates, or if they were simply creatures from another time who were sent to protect our young world, and by default our young protagonist when he finds himself in trouble.

Or perhaps we can talk about the overarching themes of the death of a parent or what it means to become an adult, and if we do. Or if we are simply walking around in adult suits and in some ways forever remain the children we once were.

Or maybe you’d rather have a chat about memory, and what that means. And how we are doomed to forget the things we’d most like to remember. And that we are likely to be haunted by the things we cannot forget, and wish that we could.

Or I could share with you my favorite quote from the book (“You were her way here, and it’s a dangerous thing to be a door.”), and we could discuss how it relates to Neverwhere and have a discussion about how the transitions in our lives can define us more than the times in between, because that’s when we’re under stress and who we really are comes to the surface.

Or not.

If you want a summary of the plot, you can head over to Goodreads, and if you want some more in depth analysis you can visit The Faintest Inklings post on Pajiba, but I think for now, I’m done wrestling with how to talk to you about this book.

Just go read it, won’t you?

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.