Bookanista Rec: ELEANOR & PARK

Today in amazing books:
A sweet, unflinching, achingly real young adult romance…
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
(Reviewed for the Debut Author Challenge and The Bookanistas)

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. 
  • SettingEleanor & 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.”

And don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love covets the cover of ALIENATED

Elana Johson thinks MAGISTERIUM is magical


Shelli Johannes-Wells  is wild for POISON


Nikki Katz adores OUT OF THE EASY


And learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.


30 thoughts on “Bookanista Rec: ELEANOR & PARK

  1. Alison Miller says:

    This sounds INCREDIBLE. I haven’t read ANY 2013 books yet. Need to get on that. I’ll make this the first! Thanks for the review, Katy!

  2. Meredith says:

    YES. I loved this book so much, for all the reasons you said. (And especially Park’s parents. They’re my new favorites). 😉

  3. Dana says:

    I’m so glad to hear you loved this book! It’s sitting in my TBR pile as I write this. I think I need to move it up on the list. ☺

  4. Jaime Morrow says:

    I keep hearing how awesome this book is, and I have to say that a book set in the 80s is very appealing to me. Thanks for the great review, Katy! 🙂

  5. Emy Shin says:

    I’m so excited to read this book after reading a few snippets (especially the one you just posted). It sounds awesome. 🙂

  6. Rachel Patrick says:

    As you’ve seen me say on Twitter a bajillion times, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! SO GOOD! And I agree with everything–the hand holding (sa-woon!), Park’s parents (love them!), all of it! The ending worked, but I still want MORE. I heard Rowell might write a book with them as adults. (: Great review!

    • katyupperman says:

      Oh my goodness… A follow-up with E&P as adults would be incredible! I’d love to read about where they end up. Hopefully there will still be plenty of hand holding. 😉

  7. Jessica Silverstein says:

    Oh man–I feel like this book has been on my TBR forEVER! Your review just makes me want to ignore the STACKS of books waiting for me and run out to find this one. Sigh. (Books like this are a reminder of why it’s ok to let go of books that aren’t awesome enough to justify NOT reading the next thing on the TBR list, right? If I made myself finish every book I started, it would take even LONGER for me to get to this one!)

    • katyupperman says:

      It was on my TBR forever too, like, since I read the synopsis about a year ago. It was SO worth the wait though, and you’re right: I’m so glad that I’ve decided not to devote tones of time to books I’m not loving. There are too many glorious books to read!

  8. Rachel says:

    You know I tried to read the first chapter in the bookstore but couldn’t get into it. sigh… Guess I need to try again?? Any advice? 🙂 P.S. Thanks for the kind words on my WiP!! I’m so nervous about it (very different voice than my last), but hope it can go somewhere one day…

    • katyupperman says:

      My advice is to KEEP READING. Once Eleanor and Park take an interest in each other (only about twenty pages in) you will not be able to put it down. So, so, good!

  9. Erin Funk says:

    I must live under a rock, because this is only the second time I’ve ever heard of this book. That snippet of dialogue is great and a trip back to the 80’s could be very fun. Your review has me convinced that I need to put this on my TBR list.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes, I hope you do get to read it, Erin. Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins both blurbed it and they’re two of my favorites, so I was definitely happy to give it a chance. SO GLAD I did!

  10. Alexa says:

    I’m so glad you loved this. I thought it was amazing too, it completely stole my heart. I’m so glad it’s getting so much love, it definitely deserves it.

    I thought the end was near perfect too, but then I read on Rainbow Rowell’s blog that she is thinking about a sequel, but set 10 years in the future, and now I REALLY want to read that book 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      That sequel would be AMAZING!

      And yes, Eleanor and Park totally stole my heart. Their uniqueness and affection for one another was just so endearing… Adored them!

  11. Caroline Richmond says:

    I adored this book too! I LOVED both Eleanor and Park as characters; they felt so incredibly real. And I felt the same way about Park’s parents! They were very well-drawn, and one of my favorite scenes is when Park’s mom visits him in his room and tells him a little bit about her past. It was so touching! Man, I wish I could read this book all over again!

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes! I loved that scene with Park’s mother too, Caroline. I think his father was my very favorite of all the supporting characters. Such a MAN, but still layered and really loving. I thought he was excellently written.

  12. Sara Biren (@sbiren) says:

    I cannot wait to read this book and am on the library waiting list – I am only allowing myself the purchase of three books this year and two slots are already taken – should this be my third? Ooh, there’s still a chance I’ll get a B&N gift card for my birthday as we are celebrating with family in WI this weekend. Fingers crossed! 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I highly recommend this one, Sara. I absolutely adored it! If you love contemporaries that are emotional and funny and romantic and impeccably written, I think you’ll love this one. Let me know what you think when you get a chance to read it!

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