April 7, 2014
YA bestseller Eleanor & Park to become a film
by Emma Aylor
Last week, DreamWorks Studios purchased the rights to Rainbow Rowell’s young adult hit Eleanor & Park, Entertainment Weekly reports. The novel, which came out in February 2013, has spent much of the intervening year hovering around the top of the New York Times’ young adult bestseller list. Rowell, who is currently working on her fourth novel, has been contracted to write the screenplay.
Eleanor & Park, set in an Omaha high school in 1986, follows its pair through a school year after the two meet on the school bus. John Green puts their meeting this way in his New York Times review of the novel:
On the first day of school, Eleanor sits down next to him on the bus. Over time, she begins reading his comics over his shoulder. Then he lends them to her. They bond over music. Eventually, they begin holding hands on the rides to and from school.
The hand-holding, by the way, is intense.
DreamWorks president of production Holly Bario told Entertainment Weekly what made the novel different from its predecessors: “It’s not the typical story where the ugly duckling is in love with the hot guy. They’re both trying to find their way. They’re both outcasts.” In the same vein, Rowell told MTV News that she hopes for unknown actors to play her main characters:
There are not established actors who could play these roles, I don’t think. I don’t think they’re unusual characters in life—I think there are a lot of people like Eleanor and Park—but they are unusual people to be in movies and to star in movies. . . .
I feel like it’s exciting to think of a romantic love story starring two people who don’t often get to be in Hollywood love stories. If you think about it, the percentage of the population that doesn’t get to be in a Hollywood love story, that’s 99% of us. So it’s really exciting for me to think of who those two actors could be.
The sale of Rowell’s novel caused Elisabeth Donnelly of Flavorwire to predict a return to “young adult adaptations of realistic teen stories,” citing the film version of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the forthcoming adaptation of Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Donnelly writes,
Teens, particularly teen girls, are not taken seriously as consumers, even though when they consume things, they do so with an ardent love . . . These adaptations have all the potential to be stealth successes, and I suspect paying attention to real teens’ lives and worries may just be the next big trend, at least on the big screen.
Green hit on Rowell’s particular reality in his review of the novel:
Every romance has its obstacle: I have another boyfriend; my parents say we can’t; you’re a vampire and I’m not; etc. But the obstacle in “Eleanor & Park” is simply the world.
Several producers have already signed on, but the director and cast will be added after Rowell’s screenplay is complete. Filming is slated to begin next year.
Emma Aylor is a former Melville House intern.