Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
325 pages, published February 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Borrowed from Library
I read this book as part of Bout of Books 10 (It FINALLY was my turn on the library hold list!). The book world has been buzzing about this book and after reading countless excellent reviews, I knew I had to read it. I am sure glad I did!
Eleanor and Park is about two misfit 16 year olds who fall in love. Set in 1986, the book takes place over the course of one school year. Eleanor is the new girl in school--and a little different. She dresses differently, has fire red hair, and is a bit overweight. She has a tough family situation and gets made fun of excessively at school. Park is half Asian and has dealt with an embraced being different his whole life--and loves comic books and music. When Eleanor gets on the bus that first day and has nowhere to sit, Park offers up the seat next to him on the bus. During their daily bus rides, he gets to know her better and grows to love her. Eleanor finds herself loving Park in a way that she can hardly explain to herself.
I absolutely loved this book. Not since reading Moloka'i have I loved a book this much. By it's description, it seems like just another YA romance novel, but it's so much more that that. It's about first love, surviving the teen years, growing up, and hope for the future. My heart broke for Eleanor. Not only did she have a horrible home life, but she was bullied at school too. Park was the only one who made her feel safe. The book is narrated in third person but from alternate perspectives, rotating between Eleanor and Park. This format was very successful--reading male and female perspectives of the same events made me love the characters even more. All the 80's references were entertaining--I have fond memories of playing my Walkman until the batteries died, and making mix tapes for my friends!
What I loved most about the book was the innocence of first love Rowell's writing conveys--the overwhelming joy you feel over little things like hand holding or a first kiss. This quote (from page 71) sums up everything I love about this book:
“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
The only thing I wasn't crazy about? How it ended--but I'll let you read and decide that for yourself. You absolutely must read this book--this is one not to miss!
Overall grade for "Eleanor and Park": A