So I was understandably excited when I saw Rainbow Rowell tweet the good news that the movie rights to Eleanor & Park had been sold. Really, really excited. Though such deals don’t guarantee anything—script treatments of books often languish for years—this one looks like it has a good chance of becoming a reality, judging by the enthusiasm of DreamWorks Studios, which bought the project.
Here’s what Holly Bario, DreamWorks president of production, had to say to EW about the book:
Every girl who has read it says, ‘That was me in high school, or that was me in 7th grade’ […] It reminded all of us of our own sort of awkwardness, or family dysfunction […] 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.
This makes me very hopeful, not just because Baria seems to be excited about Eleanor & Park, but because she clearly gets it and doesn’t want to screw this up. She’s right, Eleanor & Park isn’t about the ugly duckling being saved by the hot guy. It’s not about manic pixie dream girls or dream boys. It’s not even about the cool and beautiful girl or boy who doesn’t know she or he is cool and beautiful.
Here’s what Rainbow had to say about it in a tweet:
Last movie tweet of the day: When I think abt seeing two people who look like Eleanor and Park as movie protagonists, I get very emotional.
— Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell) April 2, 2014
That’s why this movie is a big deal, and cause for celebration. Eleanor & Park is a book about real teens: teens who are poor, who have problems at home, who are bullied at school, who don’t fit our culture’s narrow standards of beauty or coolness or masculinity or femininity. It’s a book about a chubby poor girl and a Smiths-loving Asian boy who don’t fit in and find, for a time, some solace in each other.
Rainbow Rowell’s right—seeing people like Eleanor & Park star in a movie is a very big deal. It’s a big deal to all the teens who are like them, and who don’t see themselves or their experiences reflected in pop culture.
Another bit of good news: Rainbow’s writing the script.