December 20, 2014

Review | Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell {website}
Publication Date: February 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s 
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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…Eleanor.

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…Park.

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. 

I knew I was going to love this book when I found this scene. Park and his friend are in class, assigned with comparing and contrasting two of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines, Juliet and Ophelia.

“Eric said something else, and Eleanor frowned again. Then she looked over at Park – and stopped frowning. Park smiled.

“‘One minute,’ Mr. Stressman said.
“‘Crap,’ Call said. ‘What have we got… Ophelia was bonkers, right? And Juliet was what, a sixth-grader?'” (pg 63).

Aside from the (astoundingly concise) observations of some of my favorite characters, this quote epitomizes Rowell’s narrative. There’s a quiet friendliness in her work that sneaks up on you, grabs you when you aren’t paying attention, and steals at your heart. Eleanor & Park made me laugh, cry a little, and miss those beginning moments of falling in love. 

The journey of first love, with all its gloriously romantic moments, intense insecurities, and tender hearts all come together in an amazing relationship between Eleanor and Park. Both are on the outskirts: Park doesn’t quite fit in, but is accepted. Eleanor, the new girl, is a prime target for the bullies. It’s so easy to fall in love with both characters, to identify with them, to understand their natures. It was so wonderful to watch them fall in love.

The things that brought them together – not fitting in and a love of music – is what made these characters come alive for me. I want to say I can identify with how Eleanor felt, but she has the guts and willpower to face things at home that would wilt some of the strongest people I know. That extra element made her a sympathetic character, but I didn’t pity her – there were signs of strength in her that made her an underdog. 

Eleanor & Park was so engrossing that I stayed up half the night to finish the story (thank goodness for coffee) – I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened, how it ended, how it left… That’s the world that Rowell created. 

Posted December 20, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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