Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: February 26, 2013 (St. Martin’s Press)
Genres: Young Adult Literature
Rating: Five Stars
Two misfits. 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…
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…
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.
First Line: XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.
Eleanor and Park is a book I fell hard and fast in love for. From the moment Eleanor walked on the bus, I was already hooked. I love that this book took place in the 80s in Nebraska. I was initially attracted to it by Park’s listening to XTC in the opening scene.
The most refreshing thing about reading “Eleanor and Park” is that the main characters aren’t the usual Young Adult type that seem to be floating around lately. They aren’t living in a dystopian society trying to overcome it all as they fall in love and they aren’t in the high school popular clique either. They are both simply two sixteen year olds misfits living their lives as best they can with their own problems.
There were a few other things that I really loved when reading this book. The first thing is that this novel is more than just a romance between two teenagers. In addition to the romance aspect, there are issues like domestic abuse, high school stereotypes, bullying and parental pressures.
I love that Eleanor isn’t the typical thin brunette or blonde that appears often in Young Adult fiction. Eleanor is instead a chubby redhead who uses flea shampoo, wears men’s clothing and is closed off. Park is part Korean and looks like, he takes after his mom in that aspect, unlike his brother. He is also a bit of a loner although he has a few friends. He’s willing to open up to Eleanor.
One of the things that stuck out to me was the characters’ slowly bonding over comic books and music. I felt this was a unique way of getting to know the characters without them really communicating to each other at first.
The other thing I really enjoyed about this book were the parental interactions we see from Park’s side. I feel it’s a bit rare in the Young Adult genre to actually see parents interact with each other and their teenagers. I loved that while building a romance novel, Rowell also took the time to build a homelike background for Eleanor and Park. I would have liked to see more of Eleanor’s background, but what I saw was enough to keep me invested in her character.
Where the book has several positives, it also has a few negatives I will go into now.
Something that I didn’t like in the story is how Eleanor thinks of Park as a “stupid Asian kid” before they got to know each other. While she never tells Park that to his face, she thinks the phrase a few times throughout the story.
After Eleanor and Park began talking to each other, I did feel like their relationship progressed rapidly within a short amount of time. It would have been nice to see more friend interactions between the characters before their relationship began.
A downfall of this novel is that I feel the climax progressed a bit too fast and unexpectedly. It initially seemed a little unrealistic but that is how life is at times. Events occur and things change without any foreshadowing.
I knew from the get-go that the book ended on a cliffhanger and had an idea of what would happen; however, when it actually occurred I found myself flipping to the next page in my book hoping for just a few more words.
There is hope though, readers, Rainbow Rowell has mentioned the ending of the book leaves space for a sequel. Hopefully she will write one soon.
This book gets a five star rating from me. It made me laugh, smile, cry and beg for more. The characters were well written. I loved the 80s references it contained primarily with the music and comic books. While this book takes place in the 80s, it doesn’t really feel dated.
I believe readers will be in for a treat when they read this story. Overall this is a lovely, natural Young Adult novel that realistically deals with romance, high school and home life.
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