book cover for Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Magan: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

book cover for Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (web | tweet)
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: young love, scary step-parents, biracial characters, curvy female YA characters
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Eleanor is the new kid at Park’s school; she dresses crazy and has big, red hair that makes her stand out in a crowd. On her first bus ride to school, Eleanor sits by Park who is agitated by having to share his seat. Slowly and beautifully, Eleanor and Park forge a friendship that leads to falling in love for the first time.

Dear Rainbow Rowell,

You forever and always will have me as a lifelong reader and fan of your work. Thank you for writing a book I will declare one of my favorite 2013 reads. Eleanor and Park completely and utterly absorbed me. Your writing is poetic, spot-on-descriptive, and made me want to cry because I could relate to every word you poured out.

From several glowing reviews I read before beginning your book, I was pretty sure it would be something I would love. I saw it described as “a cute love story” and “adorable.” But you see, Rainbow, while those things are accurate, for someone like me your story was so much more than young love. I felt like pieces of your story could have been written (though not nearly as perfectly, of course) by me. I, too, fell in love with my husband at a young age (when I was 16). Your words made me tear up at some of the most innocent scenes because I understood how Eleanor felt about her body — her insecurities about her curves and having to wear the same Goodwill clothes over and over because her family just couldn’t afford more.

I cringed when you made me remember what it was like to grow up in a home where friends weren’t welcome to come over because our living conditions were less than ideal. I understood how it felt to put up a front and to not let people’s comments (like Eleanor from her bullies) bother me because there were bigger, scarier things to worry about where my family was concerned. You explored these details so subtly, but for me, they stood out as if they were bolded and underlined.

What I feel most people will admire about your story is how Eleanor and Park so perfectly fall in love. Their love is sweet and innocent, but not without their fair share of complications to make it believable and realistic. Park has a few best friends who refuse to accept Eleanor. She has to lie about her whereabouts to her mom because her over-protective step-dad would flip if he knew she was spending time with a boy. But you know what I love most? The friendship that developed into more over time. It’s real. It’s not easy. They don’t always understand each other, but they’re gentle and kind and caring toward one another — falling in love despite (or maybe because of) their flaws.

All of this young love stuff? You got it so right. The slow build and trust issues were impeccably flawless. I held my breath for pages as you explored the meaningfulness of what holding hands for the first time with someone you’re falling in love with feels like. The significance of locking eyes and with that  boy when you’re so used to having your eyes glued to the ground, trying to be as invisible as possible, is immeasurable. Eleanor may have thought Park was too good to be true, and Park may have feared that their relationship was temporary because we’re taught that young love is fleeting, but Rainbow, you delivered a message that needs to be heard.

Sometimes, love saves our lives.

Please, please keep doing what you’re doing and sharing your talent with us all. I may go broke pre-ordering copies of your books for all my friends, but for the sake of spreading your stories, I vow to continue doing so.

Your biggest, newest fan,
Magan

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book review for One Pink Line by Dina Silver

Magan: One Pink Line by Dina Silver

book review for One Pink Line by Dina SilverOne Pink Line by Dina Silver
Publication Date
: October 20, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 260
Target audience: Young adult/Adult Fiction (both!)
Keywords: college pregnancy, single parent, step-parents
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: In 1991, shortly before her college finals and graduation, Sydney finds out she is eight weeks pregnant. After she tells the father, he bows out and says he wants nothing to do with her or the baby, leaving Sydney to raise Grace on her own.

 

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve read a book and pieces of the story felt like they could have been written by me. That’s precisely how I felt about One Pink Line in its entirety. Please allow me to explain.

We meet Sydney as she’s studying for her last round of college finals before graduation in 1991. While she’s prepping for her Spanish test, she realizes it’s been 8 weeks since she had her last period. She throws the books and notes aside, rushes to a Walmart, and quickly purchases a pregnancy test. She’s hoping for one line to say she’s not pregnant, but two appear.

We jump back in time to 1987 to just after Sydney’s high school graduation. She goes to her best friend Taylor’s house for a graduation extravaganza and meets the boy she’ll dote over for the next four years, Ethan. Ethan is kind and loving, smitten with Sydney, and not at all concerned that her family isn’t in the same financial bracket or social sphere as his. It’s unfortunate that they meet the summer before she leaves to college when she’ll be heading off to Purdue and he’ll head back to Kentucky again.

They vow to make their relationship work, but time and distance causes strain. Sydney makes one lapse decision after an iffy conversation with Ethan. Eight weeks later she finds out she’s pregnant. There’s a lot of speculation, on behalf of the reader, because we’re left in the dark as the story bounces back and forth between Sydney and Grace’s stories about who Grace’s father is. Just as we make strides with Sydney, we shift to see the effects of those decisions on her daughter.

One Pink Line is difficult to categorize because it bridges young adult, new adult, and adult fiction. We see snippets of Sydney in high school (with a very particular mother who obsesses over every detail), college (with a crew of four tight knit friends), and as an adult woman in the working world (with a stickler of a boss named Midge who isn’t happy about Sydney’s pregnancy). Grace is introduced to us as a young pre-teen who is piecing together the facts that her dad is not her biological dad. We experience her growing up and questioning so much about her life - What does her real dad look like? What traits did she inherit from him? Why has he chosen to not be part of her life? Why doesn’t her mom want to share more information about him?

When I read the chapters about Grace, I identified in a deeply personal way. I don’t know my own biological father; he skipped town (thankfully — he’s a terrible man who did terrible things to my mom) before I was even born. Despite knowing what a scumbag he is, it’s never stopped the questions. I wonder if my kids will inherit recessive genes from him that I don’t know about. Growing up, I mostly wondered why I wasn’t good enough for him and why it was okay for him to flee and not bear any of the responsibility. Sydney’s chapters made me realize what a brave, wonderful, and strong lady my mother is. It put the struggles she must have faced into perspective for me and I understood why she never told me more. I knew all I needed to know.

Their story hit me hard and spoke to deepest parts of my heart. My favorite gem of the story was Grace’s stepdad. (Though I must admit: the whole cast of characters was so beautifully and thoroughly explored. Silver did a fantastic job of developing the family and friendship dynamics from major all the way down to secondary characters.) Grace was constantly reminded that despite not knowing her biological father, she had someone who loved her so much. Someone who would always be there for her. Grace’s hesitation for seeking out her biological father was not wanting to hurt her stepdad. I understood that more than words can say. Despite my own curiosities, I would never want my stepdad to feel less than an ounce of the appreciation that he should. I would never want to hurt him or make him feel unloved.

With great references to 90s style and life without a cell phone, we get a glimpse into Sydney’s life as she bravely chose to have a baby without the support of the father. With only a few moments of over-explanation, the story moves quickly and will have you breezing through the pages so you can piece together Sydney and Grace’s history. One Pink Line is a fantastic story about how one decision can change the course of more than one life.

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A Thank You to the Author:

Dina, thank you so much for writing this story. It’s one that has left me thinking about my life with tears streaming down my face since I closed the book. I cannot wait to purchase a copy for my mom so she can read it, too. I want to write her a note that simply says, “Thank You for your bravery. I love you.”