Fantasy, Fiction, Steampunk, Top Picks, Young Adult

Top 5 Fiction Reads of 2015

These are my favourite fiction books read or reviewed (not necessarily published) in 2015. Click the titles for links to the full reviews. Check back on Thursday for my top non-fiction picks.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

ISBN 9780316013697

Cover image for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieIt only took me eight years to get around to reading Sherman Alexie’s popular young adult novel about a Native American boy who decides to leave the Spokane reservation to attend school in a nearby town that is predominantly white. Junior hopes that the education he receives there will help him achieve his dream of becoming an artist, but he struggles to be accepted by his classmates, and also faces rejection by members of his tribe who believe he has betrayed them. Alexie uses dark humour to cope with the tragedy Junior faces in his life, and Ellen Forney’s accompanying illustrations are just as poignant as the prose, but more concise. I actually read this book twice this year, once at the insistence of a friend (thanks, Amelia!) and then again with my book club.

Categories: Young Adult 


ISBN 9780307455925

Cover image for Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieBy contrast, it only took me two years to get around to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s critically acclaimed novel about a young Nigerian couple, Ifemelu and Obinze, who are separated when Ifemelu goes to the United States for college, and Obinze is unable to get a visa to join her. With America’s borders closed to him, Obinze finds himself in living London on an expired tourist visa, and working as an undocumented immigrant under other peoples’ names. Fifteen years later, Ifemelu decides to return home to Nigeria, though she is unsure if she wants to see Obinze, who is now married. Americanah is a big, sweeping novel that combines cultural criticism with the story of star-crossed lovers. During her time in America, Ifemelu explores the differences between the experiences of a Black African woman, and those of African Americans, and is forced to confront American beauty standards, particularly as they concern hair. When she finally returns home, she must face the fact that she has been changed by America, and that Nigeria has changed in her absence.

Carry On

ISBN 9781250049551

Cover image for Carry On by Rainbow RowellWhen it comes to books I read this year that were just pure fun, Carry On is at the top of the list. Spinning off from her 2013 novel, Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell brings to life the world of Simon Snow, formerly only a story-within-a-story in Fangirl. Simon is the Chosen One, supposedly destined to defeat the Insidious Humdrum, but as he enters his final year at Watford School of Magicks, he is more concerned about the fact that his roommate–the devious vampire Baz–hasn’t turned up for classes, and is probably out there somewhere plotting to kill him. Carry On features a playful magical system built on the power language gains through puns, word play, literary references, and other usages tap into our common imagination. Rowell also riffs on familiar themes and tropes from Chosen One stories, and generally has a rollicking good time.

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult 

Everything I Never Told You

ISBN 9780143127550

Cover image for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgThis heartbreaking novel of family tragedy by Celeste Ng topped a lot of last year’s best fiction lists, and for good reason as I finally discovered. When sixteen-year-old Lydia’s body is found in the lake of a small Ohio college town in the spring of 1977, the rug is pulled out from under the Lee family. James and Marilyn’s mixed race marriage is a delicate balancing act, and their children Nath and Hannah struggle with being among the only non-white residents of their small town.  Each member of the family takes a turn narrating, and each understands something about Lydia that the others have missed, but alone none of them can quite understand how she could have died.  As Celeste Ng peels back the layers one at a time, her novel becomes an autopsy of a family in the aftermath of the death of one of its members.

Manners and Mutiny

ISBN 9780316190282

Cover image for Manners and Mutiny by Gail CarrigerAlthough I’ve singled out Manners and Mutiny here, honestly this is a tip of the hat to Gail Carriger’s entire “Finishing School” series, of which Manners and Mutiny is the fourth and final volume. I devoured the first three volumes as audiobooks, delightfully narrated by Moira Quirk, whose accents and voices bring Carriger’s witty banner to life. However, I read Manners and Mutiny in dead-tree form, and can confirm that the books themselves are just as much fun. Sophronia Temminnick’s mother deplores her daughter’s adventuresome behaviour, and decides to send her off to finishing school to become more ladylike. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Temminnick, Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is no ordinary finishing school; in addition to learning etiquette and charm, Sophronia also receives a first class education in espionage aboard a wandering dirigible. At the school, Sophronia makes friends and enemies, and becomes versed in the supernatural politics of a Victorian England populated by werewolves and vampires as well as mechanical servants. In Manners and Mutiny, Sophronia is called on to foil a Pickleman plot to take over the nation’s mechanicals. She must also make a choice between Soap and Felix, two very different boys who have been vying for her affections.

Categories: Young Adult, Steampunk


That’s it for me! What were your favourite fiction reads this year?

Fantasy, Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Young Adult

Carry On

Cover image for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell by Rainbow Rowell

ISBN 978-1-250-04955-1

“How do you keep a promise like that? To take care of a child when the child is the greatest power you know… And what does it mean to take care of power? Do you use it? Conserve it? Keep it out of the wrong hands?”

Simon Snow may be the Chosen One, but he isn’t very good at it. Even though he’s the most powerful magician the World of Mages has ever seen, Simon can’t seem to direct or control his power. But that has never stopped the Mage, leader of the Coven and Headmaster of Watford School of Magicks, from looking to Simon to fight to prevent the eradication of Magick. Nor has it ever prevented the Insidious Humdrum, a creature that is slowly devouring Britain’s magickal atmosphere, from sending his minions to try to kill Simon. Now entering his final year at Watford, Simon should be focusing on the political tensions with the Old Families who oppose the Mage’s leadership, and the inevitable final battle with the Insidious Humdrum. But instead, all he can think about is that fact that his roommate and nemesis, T. Basilton Pitch, better known as Baz, has not returned to school, and is probably out there somewhere, plotting to kill him. His best friend Penny can’t stand Simon’s obsession with Baz, and when he looks at his girlfriend, Agatha, all he can think about is that fact that he saw her in the Wavering Wood with Baz at the end of last year. Some Chosen One!

In 2013’s Fangirl, we met Simon Snow and his nemesis and roommate, Baz. But Simon and Baz were fictional characters within the story, the stars of Gemma T. Leslie’s Simon Snow series, the books on which Fangirl’s protagonist, Cath, based her fan fiction. Carry On spins off from Fangirl, telling Simon and Baz’s story as they enter their final year at Watford School of Magicks. However, despite sharing a title with Cath’s epic fan fic, Carry On is not Cath’s rendition of the finale of the Simon Snow series, and nor is it Gemma T. Leslie’s canonical conclusion. Rather, Rainbow Rowell has described it in her author’s note as “my take on a character I couldn’t get out of my head. It’s my take on this kind of character, and this kind of journey. It was a way for me to give Simon and Baz, only half-imagined in Fangirl, the story I felt I owed them.” Carry On fleshes out Cath’s fandom, certainly, but it also stands alone. There’s no need to read Fangirl to enjoy Carry On, or vice versa.

Rowell is starting out at the end of what would have ostensibly been an eight book series in Fangirl’s world. As such, she has a bit of catching up to do in terms of world-building and characterization. As a result, this five hundred page novel contains plenty of exposition, but that isn’t likely to bother those who find world-building delicious. Rowell has created a playful magical system that depends on the power of language, and also relies on Normals to continue to feed it and keep it alive. The puns, word play, and literary references that creep into Carry On as a result of the magic system are delightful.

In her previous works, Rowell is known for writing beautiful friendships, and heartfelt romances, and Carry On shows that she can do so equally well in realistic, magic realistic, or full out fantastic settings. And although Rowell is riffing on familiar themes and tropes from Chosen One stories, there is a pleasing complexity to her take. The bad guys are never completely bad, and the good guys aren’t always good. There is also the tremendous satisfaction of queer characters who are not subtext, but canon. In Gemma T. Leslie’s Simon Snow, Baz and Simon fought over Agatha. In Rainbow Rowell’s rendition, she retains Cath’s choice to have Baz and Simon confront their feelings for one another. The two are drawn back together when Simon receives a message that was meant for Baz, one that makes him feel sympathy for his long-time enemy in a way he never thought possible. The result is a story that is at once playful, romantic, and adventurous.


Cover image for The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare You might also like The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Fiction, Magic Realism


Cover image for Landline by Rainbow Rowell by Rainbow Rowell

ISBN 978-1-250-04937-7

“Things didn’t go bad between Georgie and Neal. Things were always bad—and always good. Their marriage was like a set of scales that was constantly balancing itself.”

Television comedy writer Georgie McCool knows her marriage is on the rocks. In fact, it feels like her relationship with Neal has been in trouble forever, and could just go on that way indefinitely. But when she and her writing partner, Seth, get the opportunity they have been waiting for to write their own show for the network of their dreams, the catch may finally bring her marriage tumbling down. Seth and Georgie only have ten days to write four scripts to present to the network executives, and staying in Los Angeles to write the episodes will mean missing Christmas in Nebraska with Neal’s family. Instead of staying in LA for Christmas as Georgie had expected, Neal packs up Alice and Naomi, and flies to Omaha without her. Calls to Neal’s cellphone go unanswered, and Georgie is afraid that she has finally wrecked her marriage for good. When the old yellow rotatory phone in her childhood bedroom somehow provides Georgie the opportunity to speak with Neal in the past, she has the chance to either try to fix her marriage before it happens, or convince Neal he never should have married her in the first place.

After two extremely successful young adult novels, Rainbow Rowell returns to her roots in adult fiction with Landline, a romantic comedy with a magical twist that may cause her contemporary fiction fans to look askance. Fortunately, Rowell openly acknowledges that her premise is a little bit ridiculous. As Georgie tries to wrap her head around what is happening, she makes a list of possibilities that includes such self-deprecating options as “5. Am already dead? Like on Lost,” and “9. It’s a Wonderful Life? (Minus angel. Minus suicide. Minus quasi-rational explanation),” before getting to “10. Magic fucking phone.” However, the unusual device allows Rowell to combine the intensity of a new romance (on Neal’s end of the timeline) and the tension of trying to save a marriage that has gone off the tracks (on Georgie’s end). The phone allows Georgie to look back on her relationship in a way that is more than just a flashback. That Neal has no idea he is speaking to Georgie in the future only makes matters more complicated, creating some humourous shenanigans. Ultimately, the magic phone does not change the fact that this is a story about how two people fit together, and make their relationship work when they have fundamental differences of opinion (Neal dislikes Seth and hates LA, but loves Georgie) that do not simply disappear over time.

Landline has all of Rowell’s usual charm and humour, witty dialogue and believably flawed relationships, with a magical device used to examine the situation from an unorthodox perspective. Fans of Rowell who don’t usually go in for the fantastic should certainly give it a chance, just as those who don’t normally go in for love stories should give her work try. Rowell follows the typical romantic comedy script, with just enough variance and deviation to really make it her own. Landline doesn’t have the deep emotional resonance of Eleanor & Park, but it touches on other truths, such as how two people who love each other and are trying hard can still have difficulty making their marriage work over the long-haul. Unfortunately, Seth wasn’t quite a rounded enough character to really counter-balance Neal. As a personification of Georgie’s career aspirations, he isn’t particularly appealing, and her choice is just a little too obvious. Nevertheless, Rowell brings it together with her signature style; she excels at open-ended conclusions that are just short of unsatisfying, but leave you unable to stop thinking about the book for days, so that the story stays with you long after the last page.


Also by Rainbow Rowell:

AttachmentsCover image for Attachments by Rainbow Rowell



Fiction, Humour, Romance


by Cover image for Attachments by Rainbow Rowell Rainbow Rowell

ISBN 978-0-452-29754-8

“What did he have to mope about, really? What more did he want?…Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?”

The Courier newspaper is being dragged kicking and screaming into the new millennium as Y2K creeps closer. The management would rather their employees didn’t have access to the internet, or email, but that really isn’t an option anymore. Enter Lincoln, over-educated, and under-achieving, still living at home and not sure what he wants to do with his life. Lincoln is hired to work the night shift on the newspaper IT desk, where his job primarily consists of reading the emails flagged by the computer software that monitors every interaction. Mostly, he issues the occasional warning about pornography or web gambling. Courier reporters Beth and Jennifer theoretically know that someone is monitoring their email, but they don’t seem to care. And although Lincoln knows they’re technically violating the rules by using their work email for personal communications, he can’t quite bring himself to issue a warning. But he can’t seem to stop reading their conversations, either. Before he knows it, he realizes he has fallen for Beth, but how can he possibly introduce himself to someone whose email he’s been reading?

Rainbow Rowell’s first novel, before her breakout success with Eleanor & Park, Attachments is told in alternating chapters, one from Lincoln’s POV, followed by a chapter of made up of email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer. This necessitates a lot of written revelations that most people wouldn’t dare make on their work email today. I could accept that the conceit of the book allowed us to see Jennifer and Beth only as they appeared in their email, but I wanted more from Lincoln’s POV chapters. I wanted to understand how and why Lincoln’s life went astray, aside from breaking up with his first girlfriend, Sam, nine years before, which is a good precipitating incident, but not a complete explanation. The many flashbacks and emails make for a relatively slow start, so that the conclusion seems very abrupt by comparison.

Despite some issues with structure and pacing, Rowell has a great knack for creating wonderful romantic moments out of mundane details. You can see early glimmers of Rowell’s talent for YA romance in Lincoln’s memories of Sam, and Beth’s description of how she met her boyfriend, Chris. Despite these moments of picture-perfect romance, Rowell also writes relationships with realistic complexities. Beth and Chris live together, but her hours as reporter are at odds with his schedule as an aspiring musician. Jennifer and her husband, Mitch, are mostly happy, but Mitch has baby-fever, while Jennifer isn’t sure she really wants kids at all. There are so many different kinds of love in this book, from Lincoln’s first love with Sam, to Beth’s story of falling in love with someone who always left her wanting more, to Lincoln’s friends, Dave and Christine, who are married with kids, but still host Dungeons and Dragons every weekend. And beyond romantic love, there is friendship and family, from Beth and Jennifer’s supportive bond, to Lincoln’s difficult relationship with his mother and sister.

Quirky and charming, Attachments lacks the polish of Rowell’s more recent work, but has enough of Rowell’s signature wit and humour to satisfy fans.


fangirlYou might also like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Speculative Fiction, Top Picks, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Top 5 Fiction Reads of 2013

These are my favourite fiction titles read or reviewed (not necessarily published) in 2013. Click the title for links to full reviews. My top 5 non-fiction titles for 2013 will go up Thursday.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (ISBN 978-0-7704-3640-7)

Cover image for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraAnthony Marra’s debut novel is set in Chechnya around five days in 2004. From the woods behind her home, eight-year-old Havaa watches as her father, Dokka, is “disappeared” by Russian soldiers. Desperate to save Havaa from the same fate, Ahkmed, the incompetent village doctor who dreams of being an artist, delivers her to a nearby hospital, and into the reluctant care of Sonja, a British-trained physician trapped in Chechnya by the war. Marra’s lyrical prose contrasts with the brutal reality of the war torn country in which his story takes place. Dark and depressing on one hand, and buoyed by hope on the other, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena delivers the highs and lows life under difficult circumstances. Full of beautiful, striking details, this moving and resonant novel captures the heartache of war, and the depths of human resourcefulness in a narrative that will remain with you long after the final page.

Categories: Contemporary

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (ISBN 978-0-06-228022-0)

Cover image for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanA man returns home to Sussex for a family funeral, but instead of attending the wake, he finds himself revisting the ancient Hempstock Farm, home of his childhood friend, Lettie. As he sits next to the pond that Lettie called her Ocean, he recalls seemingly impossible events from his childhood. When he was seven years old, the suicide of a boarder at the edge of this ancient property set off a chain of supernatural events, unleashing a malevolent force convinced of its own beneficence. A relatively short novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane simply distills everything that is wonderful about Neil Gaiman’s work into a smaller, more concentrated story that highlights his skill as a story teller for all ages.  This novel is for those adults who do still want to read about daft things like “Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies.”

Categories: Speculative Fiction, Fantasy

The Golem and the Jinni (ISBN 978-0-06-211083-1)

Cover image for The Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerDebut novelist Helene Wecker combines mythology from the Jewish and Arabic traditions to tell the stories of two magical creatures who arrive in the diverse  immigrant community of New York in the late 1800s. Chava is a masterless golem, brought to life from clay by a disgraced rabbi who practices dark Kabbalistic magic . The jinni emerges from an ancient flask taken to a Syrian metal smith for repair. Strangers in an unfamiliar land, both the golem and the jinni struggle to find a place in their new home, while trying to conceal their true natures from the people around them. Wecker brings the immigrant communities to life as the two beings forge an unlikely friendship despite their opposing natures. Their relationship between them and their two communities will be key to defeating the evil forces that are converging around them. This novel is rich in both mythology and historical detail.

Categories: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

The Dirty Streets of Heaven (ISBN 978-00-7564-0768-1)

Cover image for The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad WilliamsEarthbound angel Doloriel, also known as Bobby Dollar, is a heavenly advocate, charged with defending the souls of the recently departed at their final judgement. He goes head-to-head with the demonic advocates who want to claim those same souls for the ranks of hell. Closer to humans than angels, Bobby has never met God, isn’t much of one for prayer, and doesn’t really trust the angels and principalities higher up the heavenly food chain. There’s no love lost on their side either, so when a soul Bobby is supposed to be representing disappears before judgement, he worries that he will be held responsible if he can’t track it down. But of course, this case runs deeper than one missing soul.  Tad Williams masterfully blends urban fantasy with noir detective fiction in a fast-paced adventure that engages with Christian lore and puts a new spin on angels and demons. Book two, Happy Hour in Hell, also deserves an honourable mention as one of the best books I read in 2013. 

Categories: Urban Fantasy, Mystery

Eleanor & Park (ISBN 978-1-250-01257-9)

eleanor-and-parkEleanor and Park couldn’t be more different from one another. Park has had a normal middle class upbringing, even if he was occasionally teased because his mother is Korean. Eleanor, on the other hand, was kicked out of her home by an abusive step father, and spent a year living with family friends who didn’t really want her. Eventually Richie lets her come home, but the abuse has only gotten worse in her absence. Eleanor sticks out like a sore thumb at her new school making her a target for bullying, but sitting next to Park on the bus offers her some measure of protection. One bus ride at a time, they build a tentative friendship that quickly becomes first love, even as the situation seems to doom their romance to failure. Rainbow Rowell has written a YA novel that is at once hard and brutally truthful, but also beautiful and touching. Slow paced and yet never boring, Eleanor & Park is an entire book made up, almost exclusively, of tiny, amazing, resonant, details. Rowell’s second novel of 2013, Fangirl, also deserves an honourable mention.

Categories: Young Adult, Romance 


Looking for more excellent reading? Check out my top fiction reads from 2012.

Challenges, Contemporary, Fiction, New Adult, Young Adult


fangirlby Rainbow Rowell

ISBN 978-1-250-03095-5

It felt good to be writing in her own room, in her own bed. To get lost in the World of Mages and stay lost. To not hear any voices in her head but Simon’s and Baz’s. Not even her own. This was why Cath wrote fic. For these hours when their world supplanted the real world. When she could just ride their feelings for each other like a wave, like something falling down hill.”

Cath Avery isn’t just any Simon Snow fan. The whole world is a fan of the seven Simon Snow books and their film adaptations, but Cath is a Big Name Fan. Online, where she’s known as Magicath, she’s the author of Carry On, Simon, the biggest year eight fic in the Simon Snow fanverse, and she only has until May to finish writing her version before Gemma T. Leslie releases the final Simon Snow book, and her story officially becomes noncompliant. Unfortunately, Cath has a big year ahead that could potentially interrupt her writing; she’s starting university, and her twin sister, Wren, has refused to be her roommate, so Cath is going to have to meet the dreaded new people. Since their mom left when they were kids, she also has to worry about the fact that their dad will be on his own for the first time. Despite being a freshman, she’s also gotten permission to enrol in an upper division fiction writing class, where she will have to test her writing skills outside the comfortable world of Simon Snow.

Rainbow Rowell brings the Fangirl characters to life by showing their flaws as well as their strengths, with carefully selected details. Cath fears new situations so much that she spends a month eating protein bars in her dorm room rather than facing the daunting prospect of the cafeteria. Wren may be more outgoing and socially adept than Cath, but she’s also more susceptible to peer pressure, which Cath proves largely able to resist. Their father is brilliant advertiser—“a real Mad Man”—but doing this job means not taking the medications that might help him keep his manic episodes under control. Rowell paints a very sympathetic portrait of mental illness in Mr. Avery, one more example of her ability to write misfits we can all sympathize with and want to root for.

Other than Cath’s family, there are three important secondary characters: her somewhat abrasive new roommate, Reagan; Reagan’s some-time boyfriend Levi, to whom Reagan appears to be less than faithful; and Nick, Cath’s new writing partner for class, who is handsome, but doesn’t seem interested in talking to her about anything besides writing. New friendships and new romantic prospects force Cath to confront the prejudice and confusion of people who don’t understand her interest in fanfiction. Fan fiction is such a big part of her life that others can’t really know her unless she reveals this aspect of herself. Appropriately then, Cath’s narrative is mingled with excerpts from both the canon Simon Snow works—parallel  to Harry Potter in many ways—and Cath’s fanfiction from throughout the years. These excerpts provide both a counterpoint to Cath’s everyday life, and insight into her online world. Writers have displayed a wide variety of attitudes towards fanfiction over the years, from cautiously optimistic to overtly hostile, but I can think of nothing that quite compares to the way Rowell delves into the interior life a fan with Cath’s character. (If you can think of any other similar works, please share in the comments!)

For those who criticized Eleanor & Park as a nostalgia book because of its 1980s setting, Rowell has proved that she can bring the same resonance and attention to detail to a story set in the present day. Fangirl is a coming-of-age story, but one with the ability to appeal to those who are merely remembering this stage of life, as well as those who are experiencing it. Introverts and misfits of all types will likely find Cath extremely relatable.


Cover image for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanJust a reminder that today is the last day to participate in a Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed first edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, which I’m giving away in celebration of Required Reading’s first birthday. You have until 9pm PST to enter!



2013eclecticreaderThis title fulfills the New Adult requirement for my participation in the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book’d Out.

Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

Eleanor & Park

eleanor-and-parkRainbow Rowell

ISBN 978-1-250-01257-9

That stupid Asian kid totally knew she was reading his comics. He even looked up at Eleanor sometimes before he turned the page, like he was that polite.”

After being kicked out of the house by her abusive step-father, Richie, Eleanor spent a year living with family friends who didn’t really want her. Now Richie has agreed to let her come home, which turns out to be a mixed blessing. While she’s happy to be back with her mother and siblings, the situation has gone from bad to worse; Eleanor is now sharing a single room with her four siblings, in a house with no phone, no door on the bathroom, and no privacy to speak of. Eleanor tries to keep her head down, both at home and at school, but being a big girl with red hair and funny clothes, she sticks out like a sore thumb. She seems like the inevitable target for the school bullies on the bus, until a quiet Asian boy stands up for her–sort of. Unlike Eleanor, Park has had a comfortably middle class existence, though he sometimes clashes with his father, a hyper-masculine Korean War veteran. One bus ride at a time, they build a tentative friendship that quickly becomes first love, even as the situation seems to doom their romance to failure.

Slow paced and yet never boring, Eleanor & Park is an entire book made up, almost exclusively, of tiny, amazing, resonant, truthful details. Although Eleanor’s home life does eventually precipitate a crisis, a good half of the novel takes place as Eleanor and Park get to know one another on the bus to school, sharing comics and music, and, eventually—finally!—conversation. Rowell leverages this limited setting to its maximum potential, throwing together two people who are a perfect fit, and yet never would have come together otherwise.

Set in 1986, and heavily referencing the comics and music of the period, it would be easy to accuse Eleanor & Park of being a nostalgia book. However, it reads much more like a familiar stomping ground, a period which allows the author to easily and authentically provide those exquisite details that make this novel so compelling. In fact, the novel is set in the period when Rowell was in high school, in an Omaha neighbourhood where she once lived. While it helps to appreciate 80s comics and music, this novel by no means feels outdated, or like it couldn’t happen today.

The recipient of four starred reviews from major publications (Booklist, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus) Eleanor & Park has been receiving raves from all quarters. I can finally weigh in and say that these accolades are extremely well deserved. Eleanor & Park is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.