Last week I had the good fortune to see Rainbow Rowell at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. In addition to being fabulous she was funny, and honest, and delight. If I had not already loved her books I would have been smitten just by listening to her talk about them. Interestingly she was scheduled for the Teen area, but I think I could count up the number of actual teens present on one hand. I reviewed Eleanor and Park a while back and think I could definitely read it again soon! I was very happy when her next book, Fangirl came out so quickly.
Rowell began her talk with a bit of background about Eleanor and Park that she had not necessarily intended for a teen audience. She does have an adult romance called Attachments, which I now own and will read. I may have to wait a bit in order to equalize the time between releases, as her next novel, another for adults is not being released until the spring. She also discussed how the book was a bit autobiographical and gave her a great outlet for some things she had not quite grappled with as a teen.
She went on to read from Fangirl. At one point she touched on reasons why she hates/loves romance movies: because they leave out all the good falling in love stuff. Eureka! I said in my head, yes, that is exactly what I loved about Eleanor and Park, the slow build. There was little doubt they would have a romance, but how would it all fall into place? When? Fangirl is full of the same tantalizing, mosey toward love. It reminded me of Stephanie Perkins's novels Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. I even tried to read the book a bit slowly to savor all the little details of the romance.
The book opens with Cather walking into her freshman dorm room for the first time. She is scared, jumpy, and completely unprepared for the social aspects of college, see she has anticipated rooming safely with her twin sister, who declined the privilege in favor of meeting new people and asserting her one-ness. Cather is also an intense fan-fiction writer of stories that take place in the universe of Simon Snow, wildly popular boy wizard. (One of the most charming parts of the book is Rowell's inclusion of snippets from both the original books as well as Caht's fanfic.) Cath longs to be a writer, but feels she is only competent in a world invented by someone else. This causes a bit of a problem with her creative writing professor, but Cath persists in what she loves. Cath's story is rounded out with family issues as well as boy phobia/longing. Levi and Nick figure into her romantic life that is inhibited by her own fears.
Now, for the banned books part of my title. It seems that Rainbow Rowell was recently invited to speak at a public library in Minnesota, then uninvited because of issues with the language in Eleanor and Park. Here is a link to a good overview of the whole situation. When someone at the reading asked about the situation, Rowell was visibly upset. Not in a "I don't want to talk about it" way, but in a "these people may not have read the book and the definitely did not understand it." I guess it is good that book banning gets lots of attention so we do not forget it still happens in this "free" country, but it is so sad when kids are deprived of excellent books that will help them to feel connected to a community of other readers and the characters. More sad when it is people who claim to care about them, but not enough to read about difficult topics in order to open up communication about things like bullying and abuse that we need to talk about if we want them to go away.
So, bottom line READ THESE BOOKS and tell all your friends about how wonderful they are.