Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: February 26, 2013
Hardcover, 328 pages
5 Gold Stars
(summary from Goodreads)
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.
The characters in this book by no means have perfect lives. They are labelled as misfits, but I think they are just ordinary. A lot of us felt like misfits in school, maybe because we were different and didn't fit into the stereotypical cool crowd. I certainly felt like a misfit in high school. Eleanor is a bigger girl with bright red curly hair and a wild fashion sense to match. It's 1986 and she's just moved back in with her mom and siblings after living with a foster family for a year. Starting a new school is hard enough, but it's worse when you have to take a bus and can't find a place to sit. Enter Park, a half white, half Korean boy who has been accepted in school even though he feels he doesn't fit in. He lets Eleanor sit beside him, against his better judgement, putting a start to what will soon be a love story about star-crossed lovers with a love of all things nerdy.
It starts out slow, this relationship between two unlikely kids. Eleanor spends her days trying to get through school and wishing she didn't have to go home to her abusive step father. Park tries to avoid his father who is pressuring him to drive and be someone he's not. But on the bus, he reads his comics and Eleanor reads over his shoulder. Their relationship begins like this, no words, just comics. Soon Park is giving Eleanor comics and more and more words are being said. Every interaction between them gave me the shivers and I couldn't wait for something more to happen. It's simple how they fall in love, realistic and how many teenagers in real life probably would. And when things do start to happen, it's wonderful and made me melt. These two are just perfect, on their own and for each other. The story is told by both Eleanor and Park, sometimes whole chapters, sometimes just paragraphs. I loved when Rowell would have the point of view switch during a scene, allowing us readers to hear both lovers's thoughts as they trailed through the unknown together.
The love in this book flies off the pages. When Eleanor and Park are alone together, everything is perfect in the world. Nothing can stop these two from giving each other their all. There is so much love that it's hard to know that they must leave each other and go back to places they don't want to be. And where the love makes my heart flutter, the abuse and bad family life makes me shutter. It's all too real when the love Eleanor feels for Park is the only thing keeping her there. There were wonderful moments in this book, but then there were terrible moments, moments I wish I didn't have to read because I wish moments like this didn't happen in real life. But they do and this made the book even more real. Every word gave me a new emotion. Every page left me wanting more. Every thought from Eleanor made me fall for Park and every way that Park described Eleanor made me smile. These two are unique, and maybe they are misfits who listen to The Smiths and make each other mix tapes and hold hands like it's the most important thing to do in the world, but that's what keeps them in my mind long after I've read the book. Rowell is a writer. She knows how to make you feel and fall and wish you were on that bus, watching these two teenagers find the love we all hope to find in our lives.
He set his forehead against hers. She didn’t know what to do with her eyes or her hands. “Nothing before you counts,” he said. “And I can’t even imagine an after.”
“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”