Friday, February 28, 2014

Comparing Cliche Romantic YA Fiction Novels

Eleanor and Park
Rainbow Rowell
328 pages

“You can be Han Solo," he said, "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”
It's 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska and Eleanor meets Park in the most un-romantic place ever. The school bus. They instantly bond over their shared love of rock music, comic books, and disdain for the conventional. And just when they think they know each other inside and out, Eleanor's past comes shooting into the present, with enough force to blow them apart.

As the winner of the 2014 Printz Honor and the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction, Eleanor and Park has quickly become one of the most popular YA novels of the past year.

Told in a dual perspective, Eleanor and Park is a sweet and comforting read - one that is different than most other love stories. Rowell creates main characters that are very unlike others found in YA novels. Eleanor is a curly red-haired girl who dresses in oversized sweaters and braids ribbons into her hair. Park is the son of a Korean mother and Irish-American father and his favorite place is the music shop in town.

The plot line is interesting and flows smoothly, but I found the ending to be very flat. All of the sudden it seems to just end - without an explanation or any sort of resolution to the main problem. That being my only criticism, I found Eleanor and Park to be smartly written, but easily readable.

Story Line - 6/10
Character's Voice - 8/10
Writing Style - 9/10

Overall - 23/30

The Promise of Amazing
Robin Constantine
371 pages

"It's hard to explain. I'd just rather be with you when my life is less...complicated."

"Then you want to be friends," I said, letting my hands fall. I knew I should be okay with it, but my heart felt like it was free-falling down to my feet. Complicated...Damn, what a cliché.

Wren Caswell is average. She's not popular, but not a social misfit either. She has always been the "good girl", but by Junior year she is ready for something, anything, to make her life exciting. When she performs the Heimlich on Grayson Barrett at her family's Arthurian themed catering hall, she expects to never see him again. Except she does - leaning against the side of his car one day after school, waiting for her. And all of the sudden, her life is about to get more exciting than she bargained for.

Seeing as I live in New Jersey, The Promise of Amazing immediately caught my attention because of its setting of Bergen County. Wren attends Sacred Heart High School while Grayson attended St. Gabe's before he was expelled for being a "term paper pimp".

This novel is also written in a dual perspective. Constantine does a great job in writing in such a way that gives each character a different and distinct tone and voice. What I especially loved about this novel was its unexpected plot line for a YA novel. In most YA books, it's the female character that needs the saving (as in Eleanor and Park) but in this case, it's Grayson - the smart boy who has gotten himself in with the wrong crowd - who needs Wren to pull him back onto the right track. 

Thrilling, fun, and the kind of romance that makes you sigh - The Promise of Amazing is not your typical high school drama.

Story Line - 8/10
Character's Voice - 8/10
Writing Style - 9/10

Overall - 25/30

The opening line of the first review I read for The Promise of Amazing was "When is insta-love ever a good idea?"

Here is my answer. Insta-love (as I guess love at first sight is now being referred to as) is a good idea in books. Because no matter what YA novel you pick up off of the library shelf, you will most likely find some version of it buried in its pages. But here is what's interesting, each author tackles the subject of love at first sight in different, unique ways. Rainbow Rowell concocted a situation on a school bus where two misfit teens were each annoyed at the other because they had to share a seat. Robin Constantine created a life-or-death situation where the girl, for a change, got to play hero. And how often do any of us ever get to experience insta-love in real life? And books can, in some cases, be an escape, a chance, to escape into a love that is fantastical and thrilling and dangerous yet at the same time eerily realistic. Wait, now I'm contradicting myself, right? Fantastical and realistic?

That's because I believe books are a vehicle for make-believe stories told in a way that hints at real life. The make-believe makes it fun - an adventure. The actuality makes them relatable, understandable.

Insta-love is a cliché. And sometimes its overdone, or too noticeable - and in those cases, you sometimes want to shut the book because its just too far-fetched. But in these two novels, Eleanor and Park, and The Promise of Amazing the cliché is carefully, and wonderfully exposed.