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Eleanor & Park is appealing to young adults and adults because of the writing, the pace of the story and the relatability of the characters-they are outsiders who find comfort and love in each other. While young adults undoubtedly seek different qualities in novels than adults, Rainbow Rowell finds ways to satisfy the needs of both in her Michael L. Printz Award selection. The author appeals to both audiences in composing a book that is fast-paced and easy to read with likable teenage characters who have problems navigating the challenges of life at school and at home. Does this sound familiar? Most notably, though, readers of all ages, are drawn to the feeling of not fitting, in experienced by both characters.

In order for an author to capture the hearts and minds of different age groups, she must appeal to both groups with her writing style and themes. Rowell keeps the book simple and steady enough for a younger reader yet complex and engaging enough for an older one. The author’s laid back prose and colorful descriptions of life as a teenager engage any reader: the awkwardness of puberty, bullying, not knowing how to kiss, difficulties with parents. She finds things all readers have in common to highlight about her characters; the complications they face in navigating life as teenagers is something we’ve all experienced and tend to remember. We also empathize with their plights as outsiders.

Eleanor and Park speak to readers not only because we have things in common, but their entire experience sends a message that outsiders can find a sense of belonging too. The author portrays Eleanor as the fat, weird kid. At school kids are cruel and bully her; they have no idea she has a life at home in which she’s lonely and abused. Through Eleanor’s exclusion, Rowell speaks to the place inside readers where, despite our place among the rest of humanity, we all feel alone. When Eleanor finds happiness and love in Park, we feel satisfied. Their story says something about all people who don’t belong, we think.

Whether we are in high school or middle aged, stories about other people in pain resonate. Even if Eleanor and Park are very different from you or me, we see similarities in them that make the book worth reading. When we see ourselves in characters, we learn from their experiences. A well-written story adds dimension to our own lives.  At the end of the novel, we find have learned any number of lessons about ourselves, others, love or life.

4 out of 5 Stars

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