One extraordinary love.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Review originally written in April 2014:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is the story of two misfits, Eleanor and Park who meet on a school bus one day. The story takes place in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska. What was I doing in 1986? This awesome person was not yet born, anyway.
The story opens with Park on the school bus. He notices the new girl-Eleanor coming down the aisle looking for a seat. No one wants to share a seat with her, so Park reluctantly offers his seat. At first they don’t talk to each other. Eleanor refers to Park as stupid Asian kid, and Park thinks that Eleanor is weird. Eleanor has red hair, heavy set, and wears decorative men’s clothes. Eleanor is not trying to make a fashion statement or act like a boy. There is a reason for her abnormal wardrobe.-This is why I love this book, the characters aren’t perfect, they sound real.
Suddenly, Park breaks the ice by loaning his comics to Eleanor. Soon he shares his music, and before you know it they bond over comics and music. An unlikely friendship/relationship develops. Eleanor and Park are smart enough to know that first loves almost never last, but they are willing to try anyway. Eleanor & Park is far from a light and fluffy young adult romance novel where everything works out nice and neatly for them in the end.
The novel deals with abuse, poverty, and race. Eleanor’s family is poor. They only have one car, the kids including Eleanor have to share a room, and they have to buy their clothes at the thrift store. Eleanor can’t even afford a toothbrush or batteries for her walkman. To some readers, this fact alone may seem odd and unrealistic. However, as the story unfolds, readers gain a better understanding of Eleanor’s situation, and how poverty and abuse interact with each other. For Eleanor, having money is a luxury.
Park is mixed race-his mother Korean and his father is white. He is the only Asian student in the school and likely in the state of Nebraska. Park is popular but what sets him apart from the other popular kids is his taste in music and love for comics. Park is not afraid to be seen with Eleanor a.k.a. Big Red by the other students.
The novel takes you on an emotional roller coaster. They bond over comics and 80’s music. Since I love 80’s music I thought that this was so cute. I understood most of the pop culture references. Park doesn’t care that Eleanor has crazy red hair or the fact that she doesn’t look like Barbie. As their relationship develops, you would have thought that they would be together forever, but that would have been fairy tale due to the circumstances.
At some points I thought this sounds too good to be true, in ways it continued to drag to a build up of something terrible that was about to happen. I had this feeling before I got to that point (gut instincts?)
This book is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time! I wasn’t expecting to care so much about these characters and their relationship but I was completely caught up in this story. I feel like I really know both Eleanor and Park, and I love them both separately but I especially love them together. It seemed like their relationship shouldn’t work, but it does, so well. I was grinning like an idiot while reading because I was just so giddy over their blooming romance. I could feel how much they cared for each other like it was oozing off the page.
So overall, I loved this book – the characters, the romance, the writing and just the way everything unfolded so beautifully and felt so real. One of the best contemporary novels I’ve read in a while! 4/5 stars.