Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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One of the most buzzed about books in the past year! I was draw to this book for some shallow reasons: I love the name Eleanor; I loved the cover art; I love red hair; I thought it looked like a super cute love story. Though these were superficial attractions, the heart of the book drew me in.

I was going to summarize this one for myself, but the Goodreads blurb is PERFECTION.

A stunning debut young adult novel about cassettes, comic books, misfits, and the incredible experience of first love.

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

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.

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What I liked:

  • I AM SO STUPIDLY IN LOVE with Rowell’s characters. I love how endearingly and realistically human they are. They have flaws. They’re stubborn. They make mistakes. But they’re funny, kind, brave, and loving.
  • I love that Eleanor is not a size negative three. I feel like I either read books about characters who are reed thin and tall and lanky, or they’re overweight and suffer because of it. Rowell makes it clear that Eleanor isn’t skinny without making the character’s identity revolve around her weight. THANK YOU! It is so refreshing! She’s not super beautiful or super hideous (in her mind). She’s just a girl, and her world doesn’t focus on her appearance, even when people make fun of her or call her “Big Red.” She wears what she wants and isn’t afraid to be who she is.
  • I love that Park is part Korean. Rowell manages to orchestrate a humorous and interesting family dynamic between Park and his family: his younger, more masculine brother, his white father, and his cosmetologist Korean mother. There are moments when the family is light and happy, but there are also moments that really touch on important issues like parents’ expectations of their children, being mixed race, and having family problems that are bigger than what to have for dinner.
  • Eleanor and Park don’t hit it off right away. They bond through reading comics on the bus.
  • The story manages to be sensual without being over the top. It’s extremely appropriate in the best way possible.
  • The plot is great and full of little twists and turns. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went through my day, and I devoured the book because I needed to know how it ended.
  • It portrays people and circumstances in a real way. I don’t want to give anything away, but Rowell does a great job of giving each person layers and real emotions.
  • It portrays young love (or any love for that matter) as it is: beautiful but sometimes difficult and awkward with great moments mixed in.
  • There are righteous nerdy references.
  • It was written in third person which presented a unique narration and perspective on the characters that I enjoyed.
  • The ending is amazing. I like Rowell’s style. Many people have said that they’d like to see a sequel to this book, but I think there’s something to be said for a good, solid stand-alone book that doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up with a perfect little bow.

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What I didn’t like:

  • If I had to pick something, I would have liked to have read more about Eleanor’s family situation.

A Love Letter to Rainbow Rowell:

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Thank you for being you. Eleanor & Park was fantastic, but learning more about you has made it all the better. I love that you interact with your fans (including me!) on your personal Twitter. I love that you’re not afraid to be wacky and write about real things, but you also have a great romantic streak. Your cover art for your books is awesome, even if you had nothing to do with it, it still reflects well on you. Thank you for writing this article about Eleanor’s weight and why Park is Korean. Your website is super cool. I can’t wait to read your other books: Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline. Finally, your name is Rainbow, and that is pretty freaking awesome.

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2 thoughts on “Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Lovely book review, I agree that the third person narration was unique in that it still allowed us to form emotional connections to the characters. More light on Eleanor’s family situation would have been nice, though I think Rowell may have left it deliberately vague in some respects to add that extra chill factor. Once again, wonderful review!

  2. This is a lovely post. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said about what you loved. Adored that book. Love Rainbow Rowell.

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