Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Genre: Young Adult, Romance Fiction
First Publication: 2012
Major Characters: Eleanor Douglas, Park Sheridan
Setting Place: Omaha, Nebraska.
Narration: Third Person
Theme: Gender Expression, the Importance of Identity
Book Summary: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.
Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The story of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a realistic paced tale of two high school students, Eleanor and Park, who find everything in one another on a loud school bus. Their relationship was so beautifully written, humorous at times and smile inducing while tugging hard at your heart. It’s hard for me to handle the fact that these two aren’t actually living and breathing somewhere out there.
Sharing his seat on the bus with the new strange girl totally worked out for Park! Slowly Park breaks down Eleanor’s pain of her home life and they learn to trust one another. Eleanor’s home is completely deplorable. She is bullied at school and her clothing style is unique, she struggles with herself image because she isn’t slight in frame.
“My girlfriend is sad and quiet and keeps me up all night worrying about her.”
Park is the kid dressed in black with his head bopping to his headphones. He loves music and comic books and struggles with being Korean and American in their town. Their interaction starts with sharing a seat on the school bus, to quietly watching one another, to sharing comic books, music, hand holding, a phone call and so much more.
Set in the 80s, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell stood out from the numerous other YA books set in today’s time. The character’s music preferences and references to pop culture, highlight the time this book is set in. However, what I found, was that many of the character’s personalities and problems (both to do with their adolescence and family) were vastly similar to the troubles of today’s teenagers. It was a very well thought out, effective way of presenting the idea that whilst many materialistic things changed throughout time, the human nature did not. And, although this is a contemporary book aimed for younger adults, I feel like it carried deeper messages.
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
The characters were, above all: real. None were boring; each of them had their flaws. I loved Park and his family, whilst I felt slightly less affection towards Eleanor, whose feelings I couldn’t always relate to. However, she was an authentic, very well developed character, whose strength was visible throughout the whole book, even though she could be a ‘pain in the neck’ sometimes. Their relationship was intriguing, and very realistic – a brilliant depiction of the awkwardness, but also the purity of love. I absolutely loved the fact that there were two point of views – both Eleanor and Park’s.
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
In Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, author amazingly recreates the fear, obsession, tentativeness and devotion Eleanor and Park feel for each other; neither one sure why they’re loved so much by the other, each giving themselves completely over to the love they feel. The scenes, dialog and thoughts are tender, touching, elegant without ever drifting into being saccharine. All of it is beautifully rendered, and cleverly contrasted with others in the book, like Park’s next door neighbor, Steve, and his girlfriend, Tina, who are cool and crass and hedonistic. The contrast makes the deep love that Eleanor and Park have seem pure.
I think the 16 YOs benefit from the experience of an older Rainbow who gives her characters a maturity beyond their years. But that’s never intrusive; it makes the relationship even more touching. This was my first book by Rainbow Rowell and I want to read more from her. So now I’ll begin chronologically and start reading Attachments by Raibow Rowell.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is highly recommended for fans of young-adult contemporary romance, or anyone searching for a story that will bring back their teenage years.