Review by Dana
February 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Amazon + Good Reads
"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."
I recently read Fangirl and I absolutely fell in love with it. My friend and I swapped books, she lent me Eleanor & Park and I lent her Fangirl. I absolutely loved this book. It is very heartwarming but at the same time heart wrenching. While reading it I would have to put this book down because I was very emotional about Eleanor's home life. Unlike Fangirl I didn't relate to this story much. It is set 10 years before I was born and the characters are unlike anyone I know but I became so attached to them very quickly.
Eleanor & Park is told in dual POV and I think Rainbow's use of this is the best I have ever seen. With in one chapter it can switch 10 times or twice. Eleanor can narrate for one line or 3 paragraphs and the same for Park. I always hate that with dual POV there is always points in the story where you are dying to hear from the other character and when that happens Rainbow does the switch. Also with dual POV it can be confusing if not labeled but it always says who is narrating. I loved that in this story I didn't gravitate to one character or the other I enjoyed reading from the point of view equally.
I enjoyed that this book was set in the 80s. I haven't read many books that are and it was used in a great way. There were many pop culture references but other than that it wasn't very different from a book sent in present day. This book would be great for someone who was a teen in the 80s.
The romance between Eleanor and Park is really adorable. It progresses so well and it was realistic of actual teenagers. This warmed my heart and gave me the feels. It is a gradual relationship that grows from hand holding to the steamy scene in the car ;). They made each others lives better and were the best part of the others day. This was one of the best realistic romances I have read in a young adult novel in a long time.
Eleanor is such a strong character. She deals with so much in her life that I couldn't stand to read this book at points. I loved the story but I was hit very hard by her circumstances. She deals with a step father who is a bum and disgusting. He is abusive to her mother and insinuates some nasty things to Eleanor. They are extremely poor. Eleanor wears whatever she can and uses whatever soap she can find to wash her hair. For me I have lived my whole life in a middle class house hold so I couldn't fathom this and it upset me that this is real and it happens. The worst part was that her step-father took the doors off the bathroom. That was gross. Ritchie the step-father is a horrible person yet I blame a lot of this on Eleanor's mother. She has young kids and Eleanor she couldn't see what was going on or was too oblivious to how he was. I wanted to slap Eleanor's mother. The one person that Eleanor feels safe with is Park. He brightens her day. I think when she says Saturdays are the longest day really showed how much she needed him. Fridays she saw him on the bus and Sundays was filled with expectation of seeing him the next morning. But had no Park in it for her.
Park is also a strong character but in different ways. He deals with being half Korean and half Irish in a very white community. He tries to blend in but he only stands out. He always butts heads with his father because he can't realize this. Eleanor really allows him to grow and he learns that it is okay to be unique. The defining moment for him is when he wears eyeliner to school. As a reader I was so proud of Park for doing what he felt was himself.
Once again Rainbow Rowell has created a story that has touched my heart. This book is hyped up a lot and deserves all of it. It has amazing characters who don't always do what you expect. This story is so compelling and it will leave you thinking about it long after you finish it. That last line of the book was so ambiguous but at the same time could only mean one thing. I loved seeing Eleanor and Park fall in love.
Have you read this book? What did you thing? Do you plan on reading it?
Did you enjoy Dana's review? Check out her blog for more by her!