Rainbow Rowell: Rave About or Rant About?

Name: Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow RowellOrigin: Nebraska, USA
Books: Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl
Recognition:In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by The New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013 and as Goodreads’ best young adult fiction of the year.Fangirl was chosen for the tumblr reblog book club.
Her Blog:http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

 

First of all, I want to fangirl a bit about her name because is just so awesome! The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a pseudonym because it matches her writing so perfectly. It’s quirky, alliterary (probably not a real word since I’m getting that ugly red squiggle underneath) and the ‘Rainbow’ part adds a touch of irony- very nice.

So what is this going to be, a rant or a rave? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s definitely going to be a rave. Rainbow Rowell convinced me of something that, a year ago, I would have thought was impossible. She (gasp!) got me into contemporary young adult. Let me tell you- this was a major feat. In fact it’s practically award worthy because I had sworn never, ever, ever to read contemporary. About a year ago, I was just getting into the whole young adult thing. I had read a handful of YA contemporary and they all turned out to be bad. Uninspired, bland, shallow. Really bad. Then along came Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell like a dragon hell bent on encouraging me not to misjudge it’s entire race.  The blurb was cute and catchy. The title even more so. Especially since I had spent two whole years reading and writing huge (and I mean HUGE) amounts of fanfiction. Obviously, I fell in love with the book. The rest, as they say, is history. Actually no, it’s not- if you take a look at my blog, you’ll notice that nowadays I review quite a few contemporary young adult books. I would have missed a lot  good books (This Song Will Save Your Life , Wanderlove , 45 Pounds: More or Less , Just One Day) if I never got into this genre. So, I owe Rainbow Rowell a lot. A lot more than I can say thankyou for.

And what exactly makes her so awesome? I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost is her characters. They’re quirky, interesting, unique, surprisingly profound but at the heart of it still realistic and well rounded. Eleanor deals with bullying and self-image issues at school and her home life is a train wreck waiting to happen. But at the same time, she never loses her sense of humour or her individuality. Cath is socially awkward. The thought of actually interacting in person with real people turns her into a nervous mess but she’s a gifted writer. She has the talent to write amazing stories which have major fan-followings Unfortunately for her, her writing teacher doesn’t believe in fanfiction and fanfiction is what Cath writes best. But Cath is the kind of character who grows as the story progresses. She moves (or maybe shuffles is a more appropriate word for it) out of her comfort zone and shell and actually forges new relationships.

Which brings me to the next thing I love about Rainbow Rowell’s books: The Relationships. How does an author create such different characters? More importantly, how does she make such different characters get along? Most importantly, how does she make their relationships so…memorable and perfect? I have no idea but let me give you an example. Reagen is a girl who’s larger than life. She’s prone to mockery and is excessively blunt. How does she even get along with (much less become BFF’s) with quiet, nervous, head-in-fanfiction Cath? I don’t know how it does, but it works. Rainbow Rowell proves that in fiction at least, the best pairs are the ones with the least in common.

How else would you explain Eleanor and Park? Eleanor is all red hair and wrong clothes. It’s impossible not to stare at her and the force of her personality (and her size) makes everyone seem duller and flatter. She comes from a broken home…quite literally, her home is broken. Her parents, both not so great to begin with, are divorced. Her mom remarried a man who loves to drink and loves to bully…and bully he does, but he does so much more (I can’t say much more without giving major spoilers). Park, on the other hand, has a wonderful home life. His Dad met his Mom in Korea, married her and brought her home. They still kiss and hold each other like they haven’t seen each other in months. They are simply adorable. Park himself is popular enough and respected enough at school but sometimes he feels like he doesn’t fit in. And that’s where the tagline for the book comes in: Two misfits. One extraordinary love.

But the real oomph and glamour of the book doesn’t come from the characters and their relationships (although we’ve already mentioned that they’re much better than great).  What makes these books so spectacular is the writing. Yes, the writing.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell’s writing is so unabashedly sweet and profound (but not in a in-your-face way). Sometimes just reading quotes from her books is enough to make me catch my breath, sigh and let loose a few tears. I chose a few of them but these are just the tip of the iceberg. On a scale from 1 to 5, her quotes are a ten on quotability. For some more of them, click on the link here (it’ll take you to goodreads). Better yet, read the books.

   

 

 

 

 

 

They might not be pretty, but seriously (in this case, at least), don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

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4 thoughts on “Rainbow Rowell: Rave About or Rant About?

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