Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 9781250012579, February 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

You know when you were in school and drew hearts all over everything to express your love for a particular thing or person? Well, if I could actually bring myself to write in a book, there would be hearts all over this one.

The Rest of It:

Eleanor, an awkward, “big girl” with crazy red hair, lives at home with her numerous siblings, her mother and her abusive stepfather. She’s poor. Poor enough to learn how to make do with what she has, and often, what she has is very little. Her crazy outfits make her the butt of everyone’s jokes and the morning bus ride to school is made worse by the fact that no one wants to sit next to her.

However, none of this goes unnoticed by Park. Park observes Eleanor from afar, before offering up the seat next to him. Half-Korean and in a circle of his own, Park is not popular, but not unpopular either. He’s able to blend, mostly because he grew up with these kids. There is a degree of respect for him, so once Eleanor accepts the next to him, the atmosphere changes ever so slightly. Hesitant to talk at first, the two bond over comic books. When Park notices that she’s reading his comic books as they lay open in his lap, he begins to bring them just for her. What happens next is nothing short of magic. These two unlikely characters forge a friendship, which eventually becomes love. Through music and comic books, they come together and once Park gets close enough to know Eleanor’s true story, he does everything in his power to save her.

Sometimes, I think the success of a book comes down to how well an author captures a feeling. Reading this book was like living my high school years all over again and I mean that in a good way. Even with all of the teen angst, the high school years are the ones that stick with you. Am I right? Good, bad, ugly. It’s the stuff of memories and that is why I enjoyed this book so much. Rowell’s ability to strip the characters down to their most vulnerable state is what makes this book so readable and probably why the characters felt so real to me.

I loved Eleanor’s awkwardness but I think I loved Park’s pragmatic approach to life even more. And his parents? So awesome. Loving, supportive parents who aren’t perfect. Sure, there was a heavy dose of sap when it came to the romance itself, but that’s how it is when you are young. You can’t wait to see each other and you do nothing but obsess about it until you do. Rowell captures it all beautifully.

One bonus to reading this book is that it’s set in the 80’s and the musical references are like whipped cream added to a sundae. Delightful! I grew up in the 80’s so that entire decade is near and dear to my heart but this book has a little something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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12 Responses

  1. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one – I loved it!! E&P is such a great read. I loved all the music references – who doesn’t love music from the 80s?

  2. I have got to read this one! I wish I had had a Park in middle/high school. Would have made things easier for me. I love the part where you say you wish you could have written hearts all over the book. Love it!

  3. yes, loved this one as well, especially Park’s parents:)

    • My best friends in junior high were Chines and Korean and I spent a lot of time at their houses. Park’s mother reminded me of those times. The well-meaning interjections were never appreciated  at the time, but looking back, I have to say I miss them a little bit. My parents were not arrived all that often so they became an extension of my own family whether they knew it or not. Even the older brother that used to yell at me all the time. LOL. 

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  4. I just felt like there was not one word in this book that was wasted. Any one who’s ever been a teenager in love should be able to relate to this book.

    • I agree. There were times when I just kept reading the same line over and over just because of how well structured or how beautiful the words sounded. Did you know her new book, Landline comes out in July???

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  5. I haven’t read Rainbow’s books yet but I’m going to get there!

    • She usually writes for a younger audience and I think for that reason, I’ve put her books off but man, I am glad I finally  broke down and read one. I can’t wait to read her backlist (Fangirl and Attachments) and her new one, Landline, comes out in July and has a really interesting premise. 

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  6. I usually don’t read romances or novels about high school but 80s music is my weakness, and this is now on my list. Great review, Ti.

  7. I love this one, too. I have Attachments out from the library now. Hoping to get to it!

  8. You said it perfectly. I loved this book for the way it captured the right sentiments and feelings without feeling artificial and unrealistically sappy.

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