Okay, I gotta admit something. This is totally not the kind of book that I usually read. I tend to like young adult novels and books that are about dystopian societies, mysteries, strong characters, etc. They tend to be much darker than the kind of book that this one is. Eleanor and Park, written by Rainbow Rowell (who has an awesome first name, by the way), is a young adult novel. But Eleanor and Park is a young adult romance novel. Not the kind of novel that I would normally read.
Nevertheless, this novel was extraordinary. And if you do not believe me, believe the ratings online. On Goodreads, it is rated at an average of 4.17 out of 5 stars by over two hundred and fifty seven thousand readers. Pretty impressive, right?
This book takes place over one school year, and tells the story of two misfits who fall in love (big surprise there, as this is a young adult romance novel). It is beautiful and lovely and wonderful, and not at all overly mushy or sappy (which I absolutely hate). But how do these two misfits meet, and will it work out between them? First love almost never lasts, do Eleanor and Park have the right relationship?
I apologize. This is sounding really sappy. I don’t know how to describe this book without making it sound all sappy and lovey-dovey. Let me include some quotes describing the characters.
“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.”
This novel includes some non-romancey elements, too. It deals with some quite intense topics, as well. Both of the protagonists are misfits, and this touches on the issue (this should not be an issue) of mixed race children, as Park is half Korean and half white. Additionally, Eleanor is an outcast, because of her weight. The two live in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1986, and form their friendship over mix tapes and comic books. They meet on the school bus. (Why didn’t I meet my true love on a school bus in high school? I ended up sitting up next to delinquents and drug dealers on my school bus…no fair). Their relationship, and this novel, was honest, touching, funny, and hopeful all at once. The book also touches on ‘serious’ issues, such as domestic and child abuse, bullying, body image, and racism. It is not just a flouncy, romance novel. It has a real substance.
One of my favorite quotes about this book describes it perfectly: Eleanor & Park “reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.” I did fall in love with this book, and I promise you will, too. It is wonderfully and beautifully written, and it was a fantastic read. Fans of young adult novels (they can be adults, too) will definitely enjoy this read. I promise!