Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell publishes a book. Kleenex sales skyrocket. Correlation or causation?

Okay––once I pulled myself together emotionally after finishing this gem of a book, I got to reflecting on what it teaches us about craft. Here goes:

Eleanor and Park
Eleanor and Park, published by St. Martin’s Press

1. Go for gritty

Eleanor has a hard life. Though the writing is sparse, the details are memorable and tangible. The terrain of 1980s Omaha, Eleanor’s abusive home. It’s not pretty, and Rowell isn’t scared of that. The stressful minutiae of Eleanor’s life includes dilapidated clothes, a  small bedroom shared with all her siblings, and a sad holiday meal that ends with her stepfather storming out over the wrong dessert. It’s all bare on the page, and we feel like we’re right there with her, rooting for her the whole way.

2. Adolescents … they’re intense

Nerve endings “exploding.” That feeling you’re going to die if you don’t see that one special person. The excruciating awkwardness when you can’t decide whether to talk…or not to talk…or what to say if you do talk…and, of course, what everybody else will think about every tiny decision, every minute move you make.

It’s excruciating. It’s powerful. It’s earnest. For Eleanor and Park, it’s also just everyday life.

Adolescents are intense. So is adolescent love. Rowell remembers what it’s like to be in high school. When you read this book, you will too.

3. Accept the sadness

Rowell fits an epic, tome-worthy draught of emotion into the small world of a boy, a girl, and a romance that mostly takes place on the way to school.

In my own writing, I often catch myself shying away from this vulnerability, this openness to all that’s sad and unfair. Rowell reminded me that we need be comfortable lingering in a place that hurts if we want to make our work real.

Want to chat about what Rowell’s book taught you? Find me on Twitter @beckererine.

Adapted from my writing advice blog Better Writing Now.

Published by Erin Becker

I'm a copywriter and editor by day and and a kidlit writer by night. In the time left over, I run, explore the mountains, and help other writers. Email me at becker.erin.e@gmail.com.

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