From Goodreads: TWO MISFITS. ONE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE. It’s 1986 and two star-crossed teens are 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. A cross between ’80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.
And a tiny excerpt from Rainbow Rowell’s website:
“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.”
Honest confession: I loved this book more than I can eloquently express. I actually considered skipping a review because it’s so hard to put into words how profoundly Eleanor and Park’s story impacted me. But, Eleanor & Park is too incredible not to recommend. So, with the help of bullet points, I will try to explain why you must to read this novel…
- Eleanor – She’s crass and self-conscious, sarcastic and quick-witted. She’s a low-income chubby girl who dresses in over-sized men’s clothing and avoids eye contact. Sounds hard to like, right? Well, she’s not. In fact, Eleanor is so courageous and vivid and resolute and real, it’s easy to be on her side. Seeing her through Park’s adoring eyes doesn’t hurt either.
- Park – He’s small, half-Asian. He’s punk rock, reads comic books, kicks ass at taekwondo, and goes through an eyeliner phase. He’s also mentally floundering, trying to figure out where he fits in at school and among his family. Park is easy to love: honest and loyal and sweet and inimitable. I want to hug him.
- Setting – Eleanor & Park is set in the eighties, which is all kinds of awesome. The musical references alone made me want to jump into a time machine set to 1986 Omaha. Also, the absence of technology (cell phones, the Internet) aids in the slow-burn getting-to-know-you stage of Eleanor and Park’s relationship.
- Park’s Parents – I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the parents in YA novels (probably because more often than not they’re inconsequential), but Park’s parents totally won me over. They’re deeply in love, which is a nice change of pace. His Korean mother is adorable and sassy and strong, and his father, while brusque and quite opinionated, clearly has an enormous heart.
- The Hand Holding – Oh my goodness… Who knew hand holding could be such a sensual, tantalizing event? It’s about as far as Eleanor and Park go for the first half of the novel, but the way Rainbow Rowell describes it — the literal action of holding hands, not to mention the tangle of emotions involved — is so evocative and beautiful. It gave me all the first-love butterflies.
- Against the World – There’s not one Big Bad Antagonist in Eleanor & Park. Rather, the two protagonists are putting out fires left and right: Park’s initially disapproving parents, Eleanor’s completely tragic home life, bullies at school, not to mention their own private uncertainties and insecurities. Watching Eleanor and Park work through their problems was equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.
- The End – I had a physical heart-drop reaction as I read the final words of Eleanor & Park. The conclusion is open-ended, left to be interpreted, and at first I wanted MORE. But upon further consideration, I realized that the end of this story is exactly what it should be: hopeful and lovely and very much befitting its tone.
I feel confident declaring that Eleanor & Park will be one of my very favorite 2013 releases. But if you’re still not convinced, check out the Eleanor & Park review John Green wrote for The New York Times: “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”
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