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Eleanor stole my heart from the minute I began reading the book. Just this morning I was dealing with the brooding daughter who when growing up pulled the hoodies over her head, wore dull colors and just did not want to be seen. If she is noticed she is bullied and even if she is not she is sneered and laughed at. Funny I was dealing with my daughter this morning who started off her high school career like this. Growing up pulled the hoodies over her head and her bangs in her face, wore dull colors and just did not want to be seen. If she is noticed she is bullied and because she was thought to have an extreme learning disability even some teachers would bully her. This is how Eleanor deals with it, but for more than your typical teenage reasons.
There are a lot of things this book can be said to be about. Above all I argue this books main theme is love, but again it is about so much more. As with many well written pieces of literary fiction, all aspects are well balanced and everything in it has a reason to be there. I will argue with many who have read Eleanor, including the author, that she is a monster. Again, for those of us who have read it, yes she calls herself one and technically… well I don’t want to be specific here.
For me, this is a book about the coming of age of a young woman whom the author has chosen as not just someone who is his daughter at heart (as mentioned above) but who’s unassuming because she works at it; who lives in the shadows of her own fears and on the edge of society (literally and figuratively). The only person she truly can trust is her surrogate mother Tabitha, who has her own darkness to deal with as she races against the time terminal cancer has given her to prepare Eleanor for… well, you will have to read to see. But when her own childhood friend moves back to town, she now must face having having the responsibility as well as the joy of the friendship again and all that it entails, including social circles.
Eleanor never feels safe. Not safe from the state, because of mother’s health and their dependence on state aid; not safe in school, in case her peers or teachers notice the otherness she knows and perceives a bit too much inside her; not safe to really be the teenager she is now. The themes throughout this book are so intermingled with ribbons of darkness and light I felt like a whirling dervish with all the emotions it evoked: all those feelings from growing up as an odd duck and my feelings now as an adult. The aspect of “monster” is not just one literally but metaphorically**. Many times, at least for me, to show just how non-monstrous the monster is… ( yes, say that 10 times fast!).
With each turn of the page (or flick of the finger) the story unfolds and shines a bit more light into the mystery. Just when we think we know what is going on, we are given more info to realize there is even more to it and we maybe wrong. If this was a mystery book, my review would be based on keeping me in the dark during my rating decision. I was approximately at 90% before I had a complete handle on just exactly what everything was, and even then, the end surprised me.
The themes were pretty focused and having to do with love on so many levels. Ones of balance, familial, passion, self-love, first love, and in the end, even sacrificial love. With the First Nation mythological aspects so gently and eloquently layered within and the fact it is a coming-of-age story with plans to grow with your young adult readers ages as a series, you would think there maybe a few problem areas to weave within, but this was not the case. As I have argued in the past, young adults who read aren’t stupid. They desire books who treat them with respect. They want not just need this type of book. Johnny Worthen blended the conventions and tropes of the paranormal, coming-of-age, mythological and created such a powerful message young adults crave and adults need reminding of, Eleanor, The Unseen, cannot help but be impactful.
I recommend Eleanor to anyone. Don’t stop at the first chapter; I promise it will make sense. Such a clean, tight, well balanced, beautiful read. Anyone who wants a book that makes them feel… everything, or just a book to keep them excited to turn each and every page need to add Eleanor to your “Must Read” list!
Anyone interested in reading a stellar bonus content plus a recipe which I dedicate to all the unseen summer girls, check out the full review on Cabin Goddess!