Thursday, March 20, 2014

Eleanor & Park VS The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Dubuque Tournament of Books, round 3

We've reached the semi-finals of the Dubuque Tournament of Books, and there's still time for you to enter the prize drawing by submitting your guess for which book will win the Tournament.

Today's match-up is between Eleanore & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and our judges are:
Click here to see the round 2 decision for Eleanor & Park.

Click here to see the round 2 decision for The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Each week these decisions get tougher. Partially because of the books--Eleanor & Park and Ocean at the End of the Lane, also because of the number of judges--4 this round: Bob, Sue, Becky and Megan. We sat down, (ok sent emails) to decide which of these 2 award winning books (Printz Honor and British National Book Award winner respectively) should advance. Written by two amazingly talented and dynamic authors who have both written for YA and adult audiences, AND in both print and graphic formats (Rainbow will partner with Faith Erin Hicks on a pair of forthcoming graphic novels.), these two books are books to be reckoned with.

If you’re interested in learning more about the plots, check out the previous rounds’ reviews.   We decided to give you some of our favorite quotes from the books so you can sample the flavor of the books.

“She saw him after seventh hour in a place she'd never seen him before, carrying a microscope down the hall on the third floor. It was at least twice as nice as seeing him somewhere she expected him to be.”

“If you don't want people to look at you, Park had thought at the time, don't wear fishing lures in your hair. Her jewelry box must look like a junk drawer.”

“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

“‘Nothing’s ever the same,’ she said. ‘Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.’”

“Growing up, I took so many cues from books. They taught me most of what I knew about what people did, about how to behave. They were my teachers and my advisers.”

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.”

Now for the decision. It wasn’t an easy one, but in the end we decided to advance Eleanor & Park over Ocean at the End of the Lane. Here is some of our rationale:

  • In Ocean, the reader never finds out where any of the supernatural beings really came from or what their motivation was.  I kept reading because I thought that at the end all would be explained. But, alas, the last pages really did not leave me with a tangible explanation.I chose Eleanor & Park over The Ocean at the End of the Lane because the story of Eleanor & Park was more engaging and had a better developed plot.  I was rooting for them both.  It was easy to like and relate to the characters in Eleanor & Park.
  • I need to start by saying, I think I liked Ocean at the End of the Lane. I say I think because I’m still feeling a bit shortchanged by the book as a whole even a week after reading it. Gaimain asks so much of his readers with this one. He tells us children meander and adults move in straight lines. I have been accused many times of reading books ‘for’ children, but this book I just couldn’t read it ‘as a child’ like I felt Gaiman wanted from me. I wanted answers and a return on the emotional and mental investment I made in the book. Eleanor & Park required a lot emotionally as well, but it repaid its dividends in tears, hope, and a sense of nostalgia for a time I didn’t even really live through the first time. Any book that can make me nostalgic for batteries and my college discman has to win.
  • Eleanor & Park is a terrific book. I surprised myself by liking it as much as I did. Some of the reviews mention that it will make you think of the first time you fell in love. It did that for me but my situation turned out a lot different than the one in the book. My girl was very pretty and she turned out to be a viper, more commonly referred to by me as the Ice Witch From Hell. Well, it rhymes with “witch.” I got over it.I really liked Eleanor & Park but not as much as I liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane. In this round I voted for Ocean. Unfortunately for me and the book, the other three judges voted for Eleanor & Park. So, with a heavy heart I have to wave goodbye to Ocean at the End of the Lane, one of the best books I’ve read all year.

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