Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 325
Originally Published: 2013 (U.S. release: 2/26/13)
Format I Read: Hardback
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: [rating:5]

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I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.

This book was released last year in Britain. And the rave reviews prompted me to contact Ms. Rowell’s publicist and beg for a review copy for the U.S. release. This was months ago, and then, just a few days ago, a package arrived with this gorgeous book inside. I couldn’t help but start it.

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.

Set over the course one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds — smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I loved this book. It’s realistic without being overly dark. It’s set in the 80s without sounding like a research paper. It’s romantic without being graphic. It’s lovely and sassy without calling too much attention to itself. It’s hopeful without being unrealistic.

Eleanor and Park were just so well drawn and cute, without being superficial. Eleanor has a rather horrific home life. She’s just moved back in with her family after her stepdad kicked her out and wouldn’t let her come back for a year. She doesn’t have proper clothes or a toothbrush. (Note that there are some adult situations and language coming largely from this situation.) Park has a much better homelife, with parents in love with each other and their children. But what I loved about the book was that it showed how, whatever the circumstances, teenagers are self-conscious. I also appreciated the bouncing points of view, because it showed how teenage girls and teenage boys can have extremely different takes on the exact same situation.

And the writing, the writing. It’s exquisite. It explains teenage ideas and concepts so very flawlessly. I’ll leave the Eleanor and Park relationship development scenes for you to discover. But here is an interesting analysis of Romeo & Juliet:

“No . . .” she said. “I just don’t think it’s a tragedy.”

“It’s the tragedy,” Mr. Stessman said.

She rolled her eyes. She was wearing two or three necklaces, old fake pearls, like Park’s grandmother wore to church, and she twisted them while she talked. “But he’s so obviously making fun of them,” she said.

“Who is?”

“Shakespeare.”

“Do tell . . .”

She rolled her eyes again. She knew Mr. Stessman’s game by now. “Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want. And now, they think they want each other.”

“They’re in love . . .” Mr. Stessman said, clutching his heart.

“They don’t even know each other,” she said.

“It was love at first sight.”

“It was ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute’ at first sight. If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn’t tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline. . . . It’s Shakespeare making fun of love,” she said.

In contrast to Romeo & Juliet (and a lot of YA romances), Eleanor and Park’s relationship develops, slowly and sweetly, so the reader actually knows that they are in love.

I am in love with this book.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell [rating:5]