Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Posted on 01/23/2014 in Book Review / 4 Comments

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Press on 2/26/2013
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review

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Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.\r\nSo did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.\r\nI’m not kidding, he says.\r\nYou should be, she says, we’re 16.\r\nWhat about Romeo and Juliet?\r\nShallow, confused, then dead.\r\nI love you, Park says.\r\nWherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.\r\nI’m not kidding, he says.\r\nYou should be.

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Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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.

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Eleanor & Park is the winner of the 2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book.\r\nA Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2013\r\nA New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013\r\nA Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013\r\nAn NPR Best Book of 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell caught my eye awhile ago when I kept seeing it pop up on “best of” lists. Recently I read an article about censorship that mentioned that a few months ago, the author was uninvited to speak at a school in Minnesota after a group of parents decided that the book was “dangerously obscene” and insisted that it be removed from the school library. Well, that did it – I had to read it immediately.  Spoiler alert – I didn’t find anything dangerously obscene in these pages! What I did find was a touching and realistic story about two misfits falling in love for the first time. The story takes place over a school year in 1986, and alternates between the points of view of the two main characters. Eleanor is the new kid in school and she’s different – chubby with bright red hair, wears weird clothes, and has a nightmare of a family life. In other words, she’s a very easy target for the kids at school.  Park is on the fringe of the popular crowd, even though he doesn’t really feel like he belongs there. The two meet on the school bus, and their friendship slowly begins without any words. Park shares his comic books with her, and when they eventually do start talking, he makes her mix tapes and gives her batteries for her Walkman. Their unlikely friendship gradually leads to head-over-heels, can’t-think-about-anything-else, all-consuming love.

I love all things 80’s, and I loved all of the references in this book. I also loved the way that the author so perfectly captured those awkward, confusing, euphoric feelings of first love.
These characters were very well developed and felt so real – they were flawed, they were weird, and they were absolutely wonderful! Eleanor’s situation at home was heartbreaking, and the things that happened to her at school weren’t much better. But she was also smart and sarcastic and determined, and she wasn’t going to let those things keep her down.  I think that’s why I liked her so much, because she was so different and she didn’t try to change herself to fit in. And Park loved her for being different, and he wanted to do whatever he could to make her life better. If I’d read this in high school, I’m pretty sure I would have measured every guy against Park.

I admit, I am not typically a fan of the romance genre. But I couldn’t resist this book – I felt like I was reading a great 80’s movie, complete with witty banter and a great soundtrack.

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Jessica’s addiction to books began at age 4, going on weekly trips to the library with her mom. After being a young fan of Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club, she discovered the thrill of reading a book that made her want to leave the light on and check under the bed. Her all-time favorite author is Stephen King, but she will read just about anything! Jessica never leaves home without her e-reader, and considers it the best gift she ever received. Her other hobbies include running and going to Disney World as often as possible.

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4 responses to “Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I’m passionate about book bans and I don’t know what these parents are thinking. They’re delusional if they think a book will turn their child into “monsters” or start spewing “obscenities”. I think its books like this that opens up good dialogue where parent and child can bridge “sensitive” issues. Anyway, sorry for that mini rant… I want to read this too because lots of peeps have recommended I read it and like you, I see it on various “best” read lists.
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  2. I really enjoyed Eleanor and Park, though I must say I prefer her first novel Attachments. I liked that they both had very clearly defined faults too – Park is self conscious and often lets Eleanor down because he doesn’t want to be isolated and Eleanor is often quite abrupt and pushes him away, refreshing after a lot of the “perfect boy” male leads we see.
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