Love “Eleanor & Park”?“ ”Read an Early Sneak Peek from the Author's New Novel “Slow Dance ”(Exclusive)

Rainbow Rowell's latest novel for adults is all about old friends, second chances and new beginnings

<p>Courtesy of Rainbow Rowell; William Morrow</p>

Courtesy of Rainbow Rowell; William Morrow

'Slow Dance' by Rainbow Rowell

Fans of Rainbow Rowell may already know her signature style: Her books will make you gasp with recognition, laugh along with the characters' hijinks and probably leak a tear or two as they figure themselves out.

Her newest novel, Slow Dance, is slated to debut July 23 from William Morrow, and it's got all of the heart and breathtakingly real drama that made her iconic YA novel, Eleanor & Park, a classic and has adult readers clamoring for more.

In Slow Dance, we meet Shiloh and Cary, the high school bffs everyone thought would end up together who just... didn't. They were both dreaming big: Shiloh was going to get out of Omaha and become an actress, and Cary was going to see the world with the Navy.

But when they reconnect at a wedding, everything's different and nothing is. Shiloh is working in theater, but she still lives in her mom's old house in town and she's divorced with two young kids. Cary has traveled the world with the Navy, but worries about his mom's failing health back at home.

A will-they, won't-they second chance romance for the ages, this one is poised to be one of summer's breakout hits — and we've got a sneak peek below.

<p>William Morrow</p> 'Slow Dance' by Rainbow Rowell

William Morrow

'Slow Dance' by Rainbow Rowell

January 2006

 The wedding invitation came, and Shiloh said yes, of course she’d be there.  Mikey was one of her oldest friends, and she’d missed his first wedding. She couldn’t afford the trip to Rhode Island at the time. (She still couldn’t afford a trip to Rhode Island.)

But this time he was getting married here in Omaha, right down the street — of course Shiloh would be there. Everyone would.

She checked yes on the RSVP card and wrote in, With bells on!

The week before the wedding, she bought a new dress on clearance. Deep burgundy floral with a low-cut neck. It was meant to be tea length, but it came to Shiloh’s knees. The sleeves were a little short, too — she’d just wear a denim jacket over it. (Could you wear a jean jacket to a wedding? A second wedding?) (It would be fine. She’d pin a silk flower to the chest.)

The wedding was on one of Ryan’s Fridays. Shiloh waited until he picked up the kids before she started getting ready. She didn’t want Ryan to see her wearing makeup. Or heels. She didn’t want him to see her trying. 

Maybe some people wanted to look good for their exes, to show them what they’d lost or whatever. Shiloh would prefer that Ryan never thought of her at all. Let him think he was too good for her. Let him think that Shiloh had gone to seed.

Shiloh was a 33-year-old divorced woman with two children under six — maybe she literally had gone to seed.

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Ryan was late, and the kids had gotten tired of waiting. They were hungry and sullen when he finally showed up and blustered his way into the living room like she’d invited him in. 

“They’re hungry,” Shiloh said.

And Ryan said, “Why didn’t you feed them, Shy?”

And Shiloh said, “Because you were supposed to take them for dinner.”

And then he said— 

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It didn’t really matter what Ryan said after that. He was just going to keep saying the same old things for the next 15 years of coparenting, and Shiloh was going to have to keep listening, because … Well, because she’d made a series of serious mistakes and miscalculations.

It was funny, almost, how poorly Shiloh had built her life — especially for someone who had once prided herself on her ability to make decisions. That’s something she’d decided about herself when she was a teenager. She’d thought she was good at making decisions because she liked making them. They felt good, they gave her a zing. If someone was lingering over a decision or seesawing between two options, Shiloh loved cutting in and settling the matter. The world would spin faster and with more clarity if Shiloh was in charge.

If Shiloh could talk to her teenage self now, she’d point out that deciding wasn’t any good if you weren’t deciding correctly — or even in the neighborhood of correctly.

Ryan finally left with the kids. And Shiloh tore the clearance tags off her dress. She put on makeup. She pinned up her hair. She stood on tiptoe to get her boots zipped over her calves.

She’d already missed the wedding, but she wouldn’t miss the reception. No one would.

Everyone would be there.

The reception was in a rental hall on the second floor of a youth wrestling club. Mikey had married someone from the neighborhood this time, a girl who had been a year or two behind them in high school.

“Shiloh!” someone called out, as soon as she walked into the lobby. “We thought you weren’t coming!”

It was Becky. Shiloh and Becky had been on the high school newspaper together. They’d been thick as thieves — they’d actually stolen a traffic barricade once — and they still talked sometimes. They were friends on Facebook. (Shiloh almost never logged into Facebook.)

“I’m here,” Shiloh said, mustering up a smile. There was going to be a lot of mustering tonight, she could already tell.

“You’re at our table,” Becky said. “It’s practically a journalism reunion."

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Shiloh followed Becky into the reception hall. She held her head straight and kept her gaze fixed, deliberately not scanning the room for familiar faces. Anyone that Shiloh recognized was going to have to force their way into her field of vision.

They got to their table. There was Becky’s husband and Tanya — god, Shiloh hadn’t seen Tanya for years. And Tanya’s husband, yeah, they’d met, hi, hi. Hugs. Hi. Nia. And Ronny.

Shiloh hated Ronny. At least, she used to hate Ronny — did she still hate Ronny? She hugged him anyway. People, all these people. From the same tiny part of Shiloh’s life (it hadn’t felt tiny at the time). All these people who knew her and remembered her. It was good to see them, she said — and it really was. It was good to know now who was here, from the old days.

And who wasn’t.

It made sense that he wasn’t here — he was in Virginia, wasn’t he? The last time Shiloh had heard, he was in Virginia. Maybe someone would mention it later …

Of course he wasn’t here. He was in the Navy. He was probably on the ocean somewhere. Probably didn’t get back home much. She’d heard once that he didn’t get back home much …

He wasn’t here, and other people were, and she could enjoy this now. Enjoy them. Enjoy something.

Shiloh liked weddings. Improbably. Still. She liked seeing people’s best outfits. She liked beginnings. She liked the flowers and the favors and the little bags of Jordan almonds. She scanned the crowd for Mikey. She’d have to apologize to him for missing the ceremony … Maybe he hadn’t noticed. He surely had plenty of other things on his mind. Someone near Shiloh started tapping a fork against a wine glass, then other people picked up the clanging, everyone eagerly turning to watch the bride and groom kiss. Shiloh followed the wave to the head table. 

There was Mikey. With his curly, blond hair and big, goofy smile. He was wearing a white suit. That was obviously Janine next to him in the wedding dress. Then the bridesmaids in pale green satin. And the groomsmen. And Cary.


Shiloh clenched her hands in her lap.

Cary was a groomsman.

Right … Right — that made sense.

Of course Cary was here.

Of course he wouldn’t miss it.

Adapted from SLOW DANCE by Rainbow Rowell, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2024 by Rainbow Rowell. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers. For more information visit:

Slow Dance is on sale July 23 from William Morrow, and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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