Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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.

eleanor photo

Tons of buzz happenin’ for this quirky YA book about two misfits falling in love.  It’s mostly a love story, but serious issues like self-esteem, bullying and domestic abuse are also covered through Eleanor and Park’s alternating points of view. I did enjoy their romance (and the brilliant hand holding scenes), but I didn’t get the extremely quick progression from barely looking/speaking to each other to being super in love. Not just in love, but the deep intense infatuation kind of love. It gets so cheesy, as ‘“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”-her voice nearly disappeared-“think I live for you.” (P.111) and “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. (p.111)   

As individuals, both Eleanor and Park are both interesting and flawed teens.  Eleanor is a red-headed, overweight girl with Goodwill clothes and a twisted family dynamic. Park is a small, quiet, insecure Asian kid that feels like an outsider in his own community. The character building was phenomenal and I loved that they weren’t the typical bad boy/hot girl combo we usually get in YA.

One other thing- the story takes place in the year 1986. If it weren’t for the continuous references to 80’s music and the cassette player, I could have easily imagined it to take place in the here and now. It reads very current and contemporary. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing… bad because I didn’t feel the 80’s vibe, or good because falling in love is timeless? Regardless, I would love to find out why Rowell set her story (besides being totally rad) in the 1980’s.

In the end, Rowell leaves Eleanor and Park’s heartwarming/heartbreaking love story for the reader to interpret.  Plenty of obstacles complicate this awkward, weird, quirky, touching love, but I can’t help but root for these two eccentric outcasts. 

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