Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Original Publishing Date: February 26,2013
Length: 325 pages
Publisher: St Martins Press
Obtained Via: Amazon
Format Read In: Kindle ebook
“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
Authors, you have got to stop making me feel so much emotion in a short amount of time. That can’t be healthy! I’d say reading Eleanor & Park was like a roller-coaster ride, except I hate roller-coasters and LOVED Eleanor & Park, so perhaps it’s not the best simile. Maybe it’s more like a see-saw(though, now that I think about it, not sure I ever really got the appeal of those either). I’d go from feeling so sad about Eleanor’s situation to giggling at my kindle because the back-and-forth banter between Eleanor and Park was just so witty and amusing.
Eleanor & Park is. . . different. Fresh. Unique. And a little nostalgic, though as I was not alive in the ’80s I’ll have to leave that last term for other readers to decide. I was a little worried about that, actually–I don’t tend to like books set in that time period, but everything in Eleanor & Park seemed so natural and not at all forced. I may not get the appeal of vinyl albums or cassette tapes like some readers might, but I can still enjoy the music. And I think that’s a huge draw to Eleanor & Park. It feels at home with it’s setting but doesn’t get caught up in all the trappings.
As far as the characters go, I’ll be honest: I found Eleanor a little off-putting at first. Not because of her eccentric personality(I love eccentric people), but her personality at first reads a little. . . abrasive. I think her character’s well-written and her personality makes sense, but I could guarantee you if I was in high school with her, I wouldn’t know how to act around her. I know girls LIKE Eleanor and even though I personally like them as people, quiet, unassuming me who thinks through everything a thousand times before I say or type it never knows how to act around people with several of Eleanor’s characteristics, so that threw me for a loop at first. I really liked that she wasn’t the quiet, nice, sweet girl overall, but it was an adjustment. As the book continued, I began to care more and more about Eleanor and really admired her for all that she endured and still managed to keep her wits about her.
Park, on the other hand, I was instantly drawn to from the beginning. It was so great to watch the story between him and Eleanor develop. The first time they sit together on the bus, they totally ignore each other and are just in general awkward. Then slowly they find their common interests. I love that they explore shared likes together while also encouraging each other to be themselves, but in a way that’s much more subtle than the normal, cheesy way portrayed in teen movies or YA books.
I became so engrossed in Eleanor & Park’s story that I felt everything that happened so acutely by the end of the book. I winced when there was a misunderstanding and cheered when they began to open up to each other. It was so refreshing to see a romance that was slow and believable with two characters that had other things to deal with. Eleanor’s family situation was awful and while it was painful to read about, there was no shying away from some of the real issues that popped up throughout the book. Eleanor’s life didn’t suddenly magically become perfect once she started dating Park and I was constantly reminded of that. While Park’s family was much more loving and accepting, he definitely had struggles of his own and those weren’t brushed under the rug either.
I keep saying I’m not a fan of love stories, but books like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and Eleanor & Park are showing me that maybe I’ve just been reading the wrong stories, because this book exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds and every other cliche term you can think to describe. I was hooked from the beginning and felt everything so intensely.
Final Impression: Even though I know so many people like Eleanor & Park, I was apprehensive at first because of the summary and the setting. I shouldn’t have worried though, because everything in this book was perfect(and often perfectly heartbreaking) and I just wanted to spend all my time with Eleanor & Park. 5/5 stars.