Hi everyone! On my bookshelf today is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It’s a young adult novel that came out in 2013. I found it while I was at Barnes and Noble. I saw that it had great reviews from two other authors I like, John Green and Stephanie Perkins. The cover art initially drew me in. I was intrigued by the guy and girl on the cover sharing interconnected headphones. Here’s the description on the book jacket:
“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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.”
I’ll start off by saying that I really loved the richness of the plot. I never could quite guess what would happen next. I felt like Eleanor and Park were really my friends. I was also nervous reading certain parts involving Eleanor and her abusive stepfather, Richie. He does a variety of horrible things to her family throughout the novel. I was always worried that something would happen to Eleanor. Eleanor has a distinct personality – she’s fierce, independent and doesn’t care what others think of her. She’s bold and wears men’s clothing in bright colors, along with wacky accessories (then again, it was the 80s!). She grew up in a damaged household, in poverty.
Meanwhile, Park Sheridan grew up in a loving household with two parents and a younger brother. He was able to do what he wanted, when he wanted. His life was what you would call normal. Park is sensitive, kind and introspective. Plus, he grew up as the one of the only Koreans in Omaha, Nebraska – so naturally, he stood out. Park was loved by his family and friends, while Eleanor had a lack of unconditional love in her life. That’s probably why Park says “I love you” first. Eleanor was always doubtful that love could exist in her life.
Bullying also plays a large role in the book. Eleanor is bullied because of her frizzy, red hair and her weight. Tina, an old friend of Park’s, is the main perpetrator. It’s sad to see, but it happens in so many high schools. Eleanor is the “new kid” and is victimized because of it.
It’s fun learning about the 80s music references in the book. I’m guessing the author lived during that time period. I didn’t know most of the artists. Rainbow Rowell has a Spotify account and has playlists dedicated to Eleanor & Park. Their romance first starts with music and comic books. I like that their love story unfolds gradually. It begins with the touch of a hand and progresses into more. It’s really sweet. The book has a nostalgic feeling throughout.
However, the ending still bothers me. It ended on a cliffhanger. I felt like Eleanor and Park’s love story was unresolved. I wish there could’ve been an epilogue detailing what happened with their romance in college or as working adults. They could’ve gone to University of Minnesota together! Maybe they would’ve had an English class together!
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good high school love story and the 80s. It was such a delightful read and I’m so happy It has a place on my bookshelf now. Comment below if you plan to read Eleanor & Park or if you have thoughts on the book. 🙂