The Selective Collective: Eleanor and Park

Welcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.

This week we’re discussing Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.


Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and, in Eleanor’s eyes, impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixed tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is funny, sad, shocking and true — an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.- Google Books

Let’s get this out in the open right now: There is no possible way I can review this adorable, sweet, funny, adorable (did I already say that? Sorry.) book without totally drooling over it.  Nevermind that I’m a child of the eighties, so the music and the television and movie references felt muy authentico, it was Eleanor and Park–those two beautiful misfits–who drew me in.

The Story:

Eleanor is new in town, returning home to her mom and younger siblings after being kicked out for over a year by her overbearing, verbally abusive drunk of a stepfather.  While she’d like to just fade into the backdrop, it’s just not possible. Not with her flaming red hair, her sarcasm, or her flair for dressing a bit odd. In fact, from day one Eleanor is pretty much a target on the school bus, the popular kids making life miserable for her because she seems to go against the grain.

Park, on the other hand,  isn’t really bothered by anyone. He’s cute enough, popular enough and he gets by.  He feels awkward being the only Korean kid in town (other than his little brother), and he knows his ex-military dad isn’t crazy about the fact that he’d rather read comic and listen to music than be a typical guy’s guy, but overall he’s OK.

Eleanor and Park’s relationship begins on the bus. Park doesn’t mind letting the new girl sit next to him. He doesn’t mind that she reads his comic books over his shoulder, or that she prefers not to say anything.  He even starts bringing comics for her to borrow. And then he starts sharing his favorite music–something we all know can be so sacred, like sharing a part of your soul–and without realizing it, with barely a word spoken between them during the school day, they both come to look forward to these moments on the bus. They begin to look forward to seeing each other.

My Thoughts:

This book is all about the relationship forged between Eleanor and Park.  It is a slow process, growing sweetly and naturally, with all of the great awkward silences and unspoken feelings that you know are just bubbling under the surface, but haven’t quite come out.  Their friendship alone is absolutely adorable, but when it evolves into a romance is pretty heavenly.  Their main problem is that, as we know, love doesn’t always last and in the case of these two the odds are seriously stacked against them. Forget the fact that most of the school sees them as an odd pairing. Eleanor’s stepfather would level her if he found out she had a boyfriend. She pays hefty price on a daily basis just for breathing, and he would not take kindly to her rebelling against his rules.

In all truth, this book is divine.  Rowell has built a gritty, sad world for Eleanor and it isn’t always easy to swallow, yet in comes Park with his bright optimism, not as her knight in shining armor but as her  partner, her friend, someone who sees her for the intensely bright, strong person she is, and he gives her hope. He shows her a kind of devotion she’s never experienced (and she gives it right back with a healthy measure of her awesomely grumpy sarcasm). As their relationship develops it flows with poignancy and realism, but there is also such contentment and happiness. It feels completely authentic because of the way it develops.

I loved the idea of two misfits coming together, but it was this safe, wonderful place they carved out, their funny discussions, and this vibrancy they seemed to only find in each other that really made this book for me. I loved it.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 I can’t say it enough. Read this book!

The Perfect Quote:

There are so, so many great parts. So many cute moments. This one (which I saw on Goodreads, of all things) really gives you a glimpse into Eleanor and Park’s relationship:

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”

Please check out my blogging partners as they explore Eleanor and Park even further:

The Book Addict’s Guide- The Music of Eleanor and Park 

Gone Pecan-Casting Call

The Grown Up YA- Roundtable Discussion

Teen Lit Rocks- Author Q&A

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Eleanor and Park! I loved it. I think we all did.

The Selective Collective: Level 2 Discussion

Welcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.

This week we’re discussing Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans. You guys, I loved this book. It was awesome.

Level 2

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next.  Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost–family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place.  Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian–a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life–comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: A rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but them her promises what she wants most–to be with Neil again–if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake..but the salvation of mankind. (Inside cover)

This week I get the chance to host a roundtable discussion with my fellow SC ladies and you know what? It’s hard to come up with questions that don’t have spoilers! Ack! But here we go:

1. The drones in Felicia’s hive spend endless hours viewing memories of their human lives before hopefully moving on to the next level. How can their insistence on viewing only their happiest memories help or hurt their ability to pass on?

The drones do spend endless hours viewing only their happiest memories.  Of course, it’s only natural.  Who wouldn’t want to see those happiest of moments in their lives over and over again?  Just imagine being able to see moments like that “miraculous” Christmas morning when Santa brought that most desired toy, the day that you passed your driving test, your first kiss, your wedding day, or  the birth of your child.  There are so many moments in life that are taken for granted.  The drones have an opportunity not only to view them, but to appreciate them.  However, our lives are not made up solely of happy moments.  Everyone has memories that are painful.  Dealing with painful experiences help us grow emotionally and spiritually.  It is also all of our experiences that help shape us into the people that we are.  The drones were missing out on the opportunity to grow stronger by viewing those painful moments.  In the same way that those experiences shaped them into becoming the people that they were before their deaths, the memories of those experiences would help them become stronger and come to terms with their lives.  Then they would be ready to move on to the next level.  Unfortunately, the drones continue in this manner because of circumstances beyond their control.  Once Felicia discovers the truth, she begins to go back and view her painful memories and they do begin to empower her.   She begins to feel the power that those painful memories bring to her and as she comes to terms with the consequences of those memories.  -Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks

2. The author uses a creative mixture of religion, mythology and a unique, almost space-age backdrop to create a dystopic afterlife. How do these themes compare to your own ideas of life after death?

I thought it was interesting that the author created this section between earth (Level 1) and Heaven (Level 3) that people essentially wait in until they figure out their purpose on earth before going on to Heaven. I think a few different religions/denominations believe in this waiting area, or a Limbo, while you are waiting to go to Heaven. As someone who doesn’t believe in this place (Limbo), though, I’ve personally never thought about a waiting area before getting to Heaven. I’ve just thought that you die and then your soul goes to Heaven, no waiting required. Probably not the way it works, but I like believing it does! I did, however, love seeing this idea of a Limbo area being explored and how unique it was – at first the idea of sitting around watching memories was odd to me, but I loved what the purpose of it was. Don’t want to add that for spoilers! I also really enjoyed the mix of the angels’ fall and their “revenge” on God – was definitely different to see that in there! As for my ideas of life after death, I haven’t quite figured out what I think will happen or where I’ll go. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere to sit around and wait, but I like the idea of just hanging out and getting to relive memories, especially if it’s like YouTube! – Candice @ The Grown Up YA

3. There are moments of symbolism that run between Felicia’s memories and her life in Level 2 (the bee keeping, the hives, the figure eights). What do you think the author was trying to convey?

I loved the symbolism in this book, but I’m not entirely sure the author was trying to convey a deep message in them. More than anything, I think she was giving symmetry between Felicia’s life and her afterlife. And I think she was, in Felicia’s life on Earth, foreshadowing some of the things that might be meaningful to her in her death–things like the special knock Julian does to get around Level 2 (the same secret knock she and Neil create during the lock-in at church) or the set up of the hives in Level 2 being reminiscent of a particularly sweet memory she had with Neil.  In any case, I loved they ways these ideas and images repeated both in Felicia’s memories and in her “life” on Level 2. – Tee @ YA Crush

4. Felicia is convinced of her love for Neil and she constantly relives her memories of him. Watching her evolution through those flashbacks, do you think Neil was good or bad for her?

This is a really hard question to answer! I was conflicted the whole book about Felicia’s driving need to reunite with Neil because I felt like it was both helpful and harmful at the same time. Her connection with Neil was so strong that it really gave her something to fight for in Level 2 and gave her a purpose to keep moving and pushing through when she struggled. At the same time, Neil was kind of a blinder for Felicia. She was SO determined to reach him that she would do it at any cost, including pushing herself when she didn’t have the strength or putting others in danger as well as herself because all she could see was Neil. Was he more helpful or harmful to Felicia’s cause? I guess the readers will just have to pick up the book to find out! :)- Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide

5. During her life on Earth, Felicia seemed plagued by guilt from past decisions–things that affected Autumn, Julian and her family. Do you think her guilt was justified or was she being too hard on herself?

Felicia’s situation with Julian and Autumn put her in a near impossible position.  She gave into temptation and her lust for Julian all the while knowing what it would do to Autumn if she were to find out.  If I were in her position, I would feel tremendous guilt, too.  In this case, I don’t think she was being too hard on herself.  Would she have been better off telling Autumn from the beginning about Julian’s interest in her or should she have just not given into him?  I don’t know.  I still don’t understand why she gave in, anyway, despite her attraction to him because she didn’t actually seem to like him.  But on the other hand, there’s no reason to keep reliving it because what’s past is past and she cannot change it.  Going forward from here, she would be wise to accept her bad decisions and learn from them.  Also, a sincere apology is called for in both the situation with Autumn and her family.- Daphne @ Gone Pecan

Please be sure to visit my blogging partners in The Selective Collective and check out the great things they have in store:

The Book Addict’s Guide- Review

Gone Pecan-Author Q&A

The Grown Up YA- Casting Call

Teen Lit Rocks- Edgy Girls & Good Boys

Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Level 2!