Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Minis - Eleanor & Park by R. Rowell, Black Box by J. Schumacher, The Pearl by J. Steinbeck

Out of the last 8 books I've read, only two were advance readers. Both are worth talking about and will get their own posts. Everything else? Well, they varied and those that I loved are old enough titles that most everyone I know has read them so I'm going for a bunch of super-minis, 3 today and then maybe a few more, later.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - I had no idea what this book was about, apart from the fact that it's clearly a YA with a touch of romance, but my friend Tammy said I had to read it right now, so I put it on hold at my library and it showed up almost immediately.

 Eleanor was kicked out of her home by her surly, abusive stepfather. A year later, she has returned to the stifling and, at times, terrifying atmosphere she must share with her large family, all of the children crammed into a single room together.

Park is an Asian nerd who gets along well with just about everyone but feels set apart by his looks and interests. On Eleanor's first day of school, he reluctantly scoots over on the bus when nobody else will let her sit down. As they slowly get to know each other and share music and comics, Eleanor and Park find that their families are a world apart but their affection for each other is boundless.

Highly recommended - I sobbed alligator tears. A wonderful, touching, beautiful story.

Black Box By Juli Schumacher is another YA, this time one that was recommended highly but I can't recall by whom. It's the story of a family in crisis, told through the eyes of Elena, a 14-year-old whose sister is suffering from mental illness. When 16-year-old Dora becomes severely depressed and has to be admitted to a psychiatric ward, her family is at first confident that she will recover and then confused and terrified when they see how tormented she has become.

While Dora is hospitalized and then goes through the difficult adjustment to medication, Elena is befriended by an older student who is known to have been held back for a year or two. At first she's uncomfortable around him but he says he's been through the same thing with his brother. Gradually, Elena begins to trust this strange new friend and learn to cope with the emotions she has a tendency to swallow.

Highly recommended - While Black Box is not a page-turner, it's a quietly powerful story that shows how difficult it can be for people to accept and adjust to mental illness within their household. A very emotional story. I particularly loved how the book ended.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is one of those books that a lot of people study during their high school years. Naturally, I missed it. I snatched it off the shelf on a day that I just happened to be in the mood for a short classic.

Kino and his wife Juana wake up on an ordinary day, but when their infant son's life is endangered, they must go for medical help. When the doctor refuses to see them, Kino goes pearl diving in the hopes of finding a pearl large enough to pay for the baby's care. What he finds is a pearl of unusual size and brilliance.

With the pearl in hand and the baby improving, Kino dreams of the things he'll buy, and the ways he will be able to improve his family's life. But, when he's offered only a fraction of the pearl's value, he decides he would be better off traveling to another town to find someone willing to pay the right price than take what he's offered. Of course, everyone in his village knows about the pearl so Kino and Juana encounter non-stop peril.

Not recommended - Very much a "beat you over the head" morality tale, so transparent that I cringed all the way through the book, knowing what was bound to happen (and it did). I love Steinbeck but The Pearl is just flat awful. I gave it an average rating because I like Steinbeck's style but it's not a story I'll ever return to.

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  1. I've read three of Rowell's books so far and Eleanor & Park was the best so far. Such a touching story and so much angst! My goodness.

    1. It's the only Rowell I've read, so far. The angst was so realistic. I think that's what I loved about it; it's not just a sweet romance. It's sweet and terrifying and, in the end, so very, very moving.

  2. While I tight the writing in Elinor and Park was beautiful and it did induce feelings, I found myself a little bored.
    As for The Pearl! Ugh. Stupidest book ever!

    1. Aw, sorry you were bored. Yep, The Pearl is really bad. I'm a Steinbeck fan so it was a first for me, really disliking one of his books. I came very close to abandoning it but . . . well, it's short. So, I finished. And, now it can go out the door!!!


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