Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

American Author, Rainbow Rowell, released her first young adult novel “Eleanor & Park” in February 2013. The book won the 2014 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature and reached the New York Times bestsellers top 10 list in 2013.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & 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.

Have you ever loved a book so much you wanted everyone to read it but at the same time you wanted to hold it against your chest and protect it from everybody because it was so special to you that you wanted it to be all yours? This is one of those books for me.

“Eleanor & Park” is a story of first love between two misfits who attend highschool in 1986.

Eleanor Douglas is big girl with bright red hair (the kids on her bus and at school refer to her as “Big Red”), who comes from a not-so-stable background. After being sent to live with family friends for a year she returns to her home in Omaha with her mother, alcoholic step-dad, Richie, and her younger siblings with whom she is forced to share a bedroom.

Park is half-Korean and just passable as a popular kid. He gets through school by keeping his, music and comic book loving head down and blending in. When Eleanor sits down next to him on the first day of school he dreads every second of it. That is, however, until he catches her reading his comic books over his shoulder as they ride to school and back home.

The gradual shift from allowing Eleanor to read over his shoulder, to lending her his comic books, and their eventual bonding over music leads to an intense sequence of hand holding.

Yes, as strange as it sounds, the hand holding in this book was some of the most descriptive well-written hand holding I’ve ever read in a young adult novel.

“Holding hands with Eleanor was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat.”

But like every young romance, there are obstacles that just seem to get in the way, like Park’s ex-girlfriend, Eleanor’s skeezy stepdad, and of course the biggest obstacle of them all seems to be fate.

This is the type of book that makes you press the pages to your face and squeal because it’s so cute, or because it makes you feel so gut wrenchingly embarrassed for the character.

My heart hurt by the end of it, and I have to admit I was a soggy mess by the time I got to the last page, but that is the kind of book that I love to read. This book made me feel things. It got a rise out of me in a positive and negative way, and those are the kinds of books worth remembering.
Eleanor and Park are just two teenagers trying to figure out what love is and how to hold onto it, and I am so happy that I got to go on this journey with them.