Eleanor & Park (2013)
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Written by Rainbow Rowell
It’s easy to write off Eleanor & Park as a high school, youth adult book, because in fact it is. But inside the colorful cover is an absolutely wonderful story about the unlikeliest of teenagers finding true love with each other, and in result discovering who they are and what they’re capable of. No matter what age you are, you’ll enjoy Eleanor & Park as much as the next person will.
Eleanor is the new girl in school. She stands out like a sore thumb with her bright red hair and her unique fashion statements. She draws the attention of the school bullies Steve and Tina, but one kid is nice to her on her first day and his name is Park. It takes Park a while to even notice Eleanor even though they share the same bus seat to and from school everyday. But Park, just like every other high school student, is just trying to fit in and avoid being noticed too much. Soon, they both realize they share common interests in music and comic books and a blossoming friendship turns into a first romance.
There is a lot more that the book offers besides the high school romance plot. For starters, Eleanor comes from a broken home where she shares a room with four younger siblings and she fears her step-father every day. Meanwhile, Park’s family is much more stable but his struggle for his father’s approval derails any kind of positive momentum to growing up into a man. But together, both Eleanor and Park find comfort in the bond they create and strengthen after every week.
It’s great how Rainbow Rowell is able to construct her novel by showing us the perspectives of both Eleanor and Park. Whether they’re together or apart, she throws us into their minds and we get to see the hidden side that they try and keep secret from each other. It’s a very effective tactic and one necessary to fully understand the obstacles both characters have to take to be together. We all love rooting for the underdogs. Here in Eleanor & Park, they’re both underdogs and the chance of their relationship lasting seems slim to none, but that just makes us root for them more!
I’ve always been fascinated with stories that take place in high school, because no matter how different the experience is, high school will be memorable for everyone. It’s a whole lot of drama and first experiences packed into four years of your life, thus making it great material for a story. Rowell is able to understand the ups and downs that high school brings everyone and genuinely cares for her characters. The detail and precision from every word Eleanor and Park say to each other jumps off the page and into your heart. This book will move you as long as you have a single strand of romance inside of you.