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Eleanor & Park: Rowell's Perfect Example of Excellent Writing

I've wanted to read Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park since last year when I bought it for my daughter. The buzz around the book was intriguing, and while I'm not one to follow trends for trends-sake, I do take seriously reviews of books in the category in which I like to write.  I just devoured Eleanor & Park this week, and I must recommend it to all writers who hope that agents and editors will say yes to their manuscript. Here's why:

1. We all know that our main characters must have a problem to overcome. But a common mistake is to make the problem the central focus of the novel and to have a steady drumbeat throughout that this person has anorexia, lives in poverty, is being bullied, etc.  What Rowell does in Eleanor & Park is to have the problem be much more subtle. It hangs in the background like a gruesome painting, and Eleanor doesn't so much react to it, as change her behavior accordingly. The result is that her stepfather's abuse becomes much more chilling, and that much more powerful in shaping how Eleanor, and ultimately Park, reacts.

2.  Rowell gives us two points of view throughout the book, alternating between Eleanor and Park. But every switch advances the story, and also beautifully sets up how amazing these two social misfits really are.

3. Rowell has created love scenes that are poetic in their descriptions of those first heightened sexual feelings where your body does things you never knew it could. Yet she is never graphic. Hollywood and the WB could take a lesson from Rowell.

4. Many writers assume that  dialogue has to sound a lot like valley girls screeching over boys in the mall. But like all the novels that have been well received by reviewers, Rowell's dialogue is funny, poignant, and depicts how much teens really do know about their world. The books that sell, in all age categories, tend to be the ones that allow characters the dignity of intelligence.

So I suggest, as I always do, that you read the best that is out there in the genre you hope to be accepted into to know what you need to aspire to. Never copy, but at least get a sense of the caliber of writing that appeals to agents and editors--because it also appeals to your ultimate reader.

You should also read Rowell's latest, Fangirl. Her dialogue is so snappy and the story so unique, it's just pure pleasure to read.

Next on my list is Allegiant by Veronica Roth, the final book in her trilogy.

Liza N. Burby
Liza is an award-winning journalist for some of the top publications in the country, a magazine editor, parenting speaker, children's book author and a motivational speaker/expert on getting your work published.

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May 2022