Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26th, 2013
St. Martin’s Press
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 rated Eleanor and Park 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
For a reason that I cannot quite explain, I was skeptical about this book. I had absolutely no reason to be, but I was nonetheless. Maybe the hype was a little too much for me and my cynical side made me think that the book wasn’t worth the hype. I really don’t know.
Regardless, this book blew my expectations out of the water. For this first time in a long time, I was uncomfortable. Every word, every sentence was pure poetry so it wasn’t an unpleasant reading experience, but this book pushed my boundaries and forced me to fall in love with an awkward teenage romance that was doomed from the start. I had to imagine the main characters for who they were: an awkward, self-proclaimed “fat girl” with red hair and a random sense of style, and a skinny, short Asian-American boy who likes to wear eyeliner. I had to embrace them for their quirks in the same way that they embraced each other and not dreamcast them to be “prettier” than they were.
The strengths in this book lie in the characters themselves. Eleanor and Park, our leading gal and guy, were phenomenal. (When I was writing this, I actually had to pause and think about a word I could use that would capture the explosiveness of their character development. That’s how phenomenal they were.) They were so well-defined while also so ambiguous that they might honestly be some of my favorite characters. Ever. Do you know how many books I’ve read? Saying that they’re some of my favorites really means something.
What I also loved about Eleanor & Park was the reality in their intertwined stories. There was no sugar-coating here: the story was raw and real and painful and beautiful and a million different adjectives at a million different times. When Rowell wanted us to root for them, she crafted the story so we would root for them. When Rowell wanted us to scream with frustration, she crafted the story so we would scream with frustration. Every word was purposeful and carried a palpable intention.
As aforementioned, the plot made me uncomfortable in the best way possible. I love me a contemporary novel, but I prefer to stick to books that I know will have a happy ending, or at least a comfortable resolution. I had no such luck with this book and that was okay with me. I felt that the plot had an ease about it that just made sense. With this natural flow, we sometimes entered treacherous waters filled with bitter realities, but I didn’t mind. The plot was a reflection of, get this, life. In this reflection, I found so much beauty and fulfillment that I wouldn’t have experienced had the plot been filled with fluff.
Overall, this book was a knockout. If you have a pulse and want to read a fabulous book, this one is for you. Eleanor & Park is a book of the highest caliber and I’m sure I’ll be ranting about its fabulousness for a long, long time.
Have you read Eleanor & Park? What did you think of it?
This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.