Tag Archives: Rainbow Rowell

Digging Deeper or Branching Out: What Are You Reading?

So I used to be unable to say who my favorite author was. To be honest, I still don’t know that I’d have a straight answer. But my main issue was this: I rarely read more than one book by the same issue.

What? How could that be?

I guess my problem is I’m always so eager for new and different content that I tend to just run to another author instead of checking the library catalogue to see what else that single author has written.

But in the last two years I’ve finished all the novels by two different women. And it made me start to think more about this reading dilemma. Is it better to branch out to new things, or to dig deeper into an author’s works to get a better understanding?

My college required us to take two “advanced studies” literature classes. These involved honing in on an author of my professor’s choosing. For my British literature professor it was C.S. Lewis. For my American one it was a slightly less well known historical fiction author named Denise Giardina.

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The thing was, I’d not only never had the chance to really dig deep into an author’s works on my own time, but I had never done it in a class either. Most of my professors had us read a dozen texts over a semester, spending a maximum of a week with each author. So to have the time to really sink into someone’s works and study them was incredible.

It gave a better feeling of the author as a whole. We noticed Lewis’s incredible metaphors, his regular and saddening misogyny, his clear influence from George MacDonald, Tolkien, and others. With Giardina we noted her themes of universal salvation, the regular brokenness between fathers and children, the continual concern for the earth and the animals.

Recently I finished reading all of Rainbow Rowell’s novels (though not her short stories yet). I’m not trying to put her on the same level as my literature classes. But I do really enjoy her works. And it was very wonderful to think by the end how much more I noticed repetition and variation between the books. Even with a teen fiction writer like Rowell, I think reading more than one book of hers has made me better away of her writing. Her simple yet humorous style. Her concern for body positivity. Her regular theme of choices and how those affect us.

The reality is I think we need to do a little of both. There are some people who just sit and read one author’s works, or maybe a couple they  rotate through. And then there are others who never touch the same author twice.

I think it’s good to have a mix. Have authors you can delve a little deeper into and understand more about their writing individually. And have other books that are a little more out of the blue. I think nothing is more important for a reader, and especially for a writer, than to absorb a variety, but maybe not at the cost of losing any sense of roots.

Do you stick with one author? Do you branch out? Do you have any authors you’ve read multiple works by? Have you ever taken a class devoted to just one writer? Any other thoughts are great too, but there are a few to get you started!

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Book Recommendation: Eleanor & Park

High school is rough. It’s a time of confusion about who you are, and where you’re going, and what you want in your life. There’s bullying, and unrequited crushes, and arguments with your parents. These are all simply a part of what made Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell so unbelievably relatable.

This book is the story of two misfits who find solace from their troubled lives in music and comic books and time together. Eleanor is a heavyset teenager with wild red curls who wears men’s clothing, and things like curtain ties for hair decorations. She lives in a two bedroom rickety house with her mother, stepfather and four siblings, and things are not ideal in her home life. To make things worse she’s the new girl, making her even more of a target for bullying at school. Park in the meantime is a half-Korean who does Tae Kwon Do and is constantly trying to live up to his father’s expectations. He does his best to blend into his high school, though when he gets forced to sit next to Eleanor on the bus, all of that changes.

Set in Omaha Nebraska in 1986, the story weaves a tale of romance and high school drama intermixed with the two difficult lives of two teenagers just trying to survive another day.

This book was one of the most touching love stories I’ve read in a while. I found it relatable in many aspects of its portrayal of teenage life, but also beautiful in the uplifting story beyond the stereotypical high school drama. I loved that it pointed out how silly romance can be, making fun of the stereotypical Romeo and Juliette star-crossed lovers motif, but also continuing to give hope in finding comfort and strength in friendship and love.

This book caused me to cry multiple times. It was interesting because Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl is one of my other favorites, but it never made me feel quite so emotional in spite of the fact that the main character was even more relatable to me. Even so, the way Rowell writes simply inspires a level of understanding for these two strange protagonists, even if neither is like any other character I’ve encountered before.

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One other aspect I loved in this novel was the defiance of gender stereotypes. I’ve rarely read a novel with a female protagonist who wasn’t described as attractive in some respect. Certainly, Park finds Eleanor lovely in her own way, but the fact that she was overweight and a redhead made her stand out to me. In the same way, I loved that Park struggled with figuring out how to please his overly masculine father while trying to be himself, constantly being told he was being a pussy. In terms of encouraging kids to be themselves and not worry about living up to a gender stereotype, I thought this novel hit that message right on the mark.

In fact, one of the most relatable sections I’ve ever read in a book was from this novel.

Eleanor is letting Park’s mom, a beautician, fix her up with a makeover.

“But I don’t wear makeup.”

“Why not?”

Maybe Eleanor should say that she wasn’t allowed to. That would sound nicer than, Because makeup is a lie.

“I don’t know,” Eleanor said. “It’s just not me.”

I have never in my life encountered a female protagonist who I could relate to in this aspect. Those words “makeup is a lie” are something I’ve felt and said before, and I really appreciated having someone who understood me in that respect.

EleanorBut even in the aspects I couldn’t understand, like dealing with being torn between two different cultures, or struggling with poverty, or dealing with an abusive stepparent, I thought Rowell communicated these characters well enough that I had a level of sympathy for Eleanor and Park regardless of having not experienced the same things.

I highly recommend reading this book. I think it speaks a beautiful amount of truth in multiple areas of life, and Rowell’s style is one that never fails to amuse me. It’s a good book if you love romance and young adult fiction, or if you’re just looking for a fun and easy read with unique characters and a touching story.

Also, there is a plan to make it into a movie! So it’s always good to get the book read before the movie comes out. Just a little extra motivation.

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