Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Young love, high school sweethearts and any other cheesy label I can think of just doesn’t fit this bittersweet story. Eleanor is the new girl at school and she’s an easy target for others to pick on. She doesn’t wear the right clothes and is never quite able to tame her curly red hair. Despite this she becomes friends with Park, a quiet but popular Korean-American boy she meets on the bus. The two form an unlikely bond over a shared love of music and comic books. As sweet as their relationship is, there’s a much bigger story that Rowell is telling.
She touches on so many issues; popularity, school bullies, first love, growing up, gender identity, culture clash and so much more. As an added bonus, the book is set in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska and is full of pop culture ‘80s references.
Eleanor’s personal life is rocky to say the least. Her secrets slowly unfold throughout the book and you can’t help but love the prickly teen. She is so raw and vulnerable and of course because of that she’s hard and defensive on the outside. As her past is revealed it’s painful to see what she’s been through.
These beautiful characters feel so real. They aren’t simple, they don’t fit into a box, they’re wonderfully complex. Even their parents aren’t generic pictures of good or bad, they make mistakes and selfish decisions like any real parents do. I particularly loved getting to know Park's parents. Their relationship and the very different way they interact with their children felt like a real family.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s fitting that Rowell’s next book is titled “Fangirl” because I think I’m officially a fangirl for her work. Between this book and her first one, Attachments I feel like I’ve found an author who creates some memorable characters and tells wonderful stories. I can’t wait to read more from her.
“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”