Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Publisher: Orion
Release date: February 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 325
Goodreads || Book Depository

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.


5 stars

I can’t really express how much I adored this book and connected to it. I want to say that Eleanor & Park is my favourite Rainbow Rowell book, but I don’t think anything can top Carry On and Fangirl. So they’ll all have to tie for first place.

Eleanor & Park is definitely a character-driven story. Both Eleanor and Park were such complex, interesting and REAL characters that I couldn’t help by connect and relate to them. Both Eleanor and Park are going through some rough times. Park is half-Korean and in his small Nebraskan town in the 1980s, he stands out because he’s different. He also stands out at home because he’s different from his father and his younger brother and has interests that don’t always involve being masculine. Eleanor herself is having an even rougher time. She’s bullied at school for being overweight and for the strange clothes that she wears. At home, she has to tread lightly around her stepfather who is abusive and restricts the freedom of her whole family. She lives in a house with too many members and not enough money.

When the two meet and slowly fall in love, it seems like there are too many barriers in the way. And as they slowly overcome these barriers and begin to feel invincible, more terrible things get in their way. I just felt so much for these characters and what they were going through. What Rainbow Rowell has done so well here is making her readers empathise with her characters. I’ve never really been where Eleanor and Park have been but I felt like I understood exactly what it was like for them and it put the most uncomfortable feeling in my chest. The characters themselves were also perfection. But in the most imperfect way. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows when they first connect with each other and form a relationship. There are lots of doubts and secrets and ugly thoughts. Park, while he was a wonderful guy, was often embarrassed by Eleanor and this was portrayed beautifully in the book. I just really enjoyed how human the characters in Eleanor & Park were and that it wasn’t all smooth sailing and wonderful.

“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “sometimes I think I live for you.”

As imperfect as it was, I loved the romance in this book. Eleanor and Park are so perfect for each other and they’re definitely high up on my list of OTPs. I loved the natural progression of their romance and relationship in the novel. It transitioned so beautifully and it was hard to tell where it began. Everything about the relationship felt incredibly natural and realistic and I really appreciated that about this contemporary novel. Their relationship was awkward and uncomfortable at times but so very real.

I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of plot in this novel but I didn’t mind that at all. I enjoyed being with the characters and learning about them. I also didn’t mind that the book was a little slow-paced because, for me, it enhanced the 1980s small town vibe that the novel had. I’m a little bit mad that the ending was so abrupt but I have a good idea of what Rainbow Rowell intended it to be. I’m crossing my fingers that one day she’ll write a sequel. For now, I’m just ecstatic that this book exists because it’s now one of my all-time favourites.


28 thoughts on “Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. The Sapphire says:

    Lovely review ❤ I loveeed the book so so much too, and I even re-read it after a year after the first time I read it, and I still got the goosebumps. I loved the complexity of the characters, the relationships and family situations, while all of it being in the setting of a small town.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauren Busser says:

    This book is amazing! I have to agree there is not a lot of plot but the relationship between these two was so relatable. I listened to the audiobook and both narrators were lovely and seemed to fit both the characters so well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I’m not really a fan of audiobooks but I can see this one working out really well! I’m gonna listen to a sample of it and check it out. Even though there was very little plot in this book, I just loved the atmosphere and the setting of the book. It’s definitely a standout in my mind.


  3. rainandcheese says:

    I remember reading this book in one sitting back at college. I was so hooked that I skipped school for one whole day. It’s one of the books I surprisingly adored and I usually don’t read a lot of romance. Eleanor and Park’s relationship is sooo real and you could really feel the giddy, bittersweet feeling of falling inlove.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I think I read it in about one sitting as well. It was just such a compelling story that I couldn’t let go of it. The characters were brilliant and complex and I thought the relationship Eleanor and Park had together was so honest and genuine. I could reread this book over and over and not get sick of it!


  4. Brooklyn (@bsippingtea) says:

    I love this review! I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for books like this (possibly the teenage girl in me), I’m dying to do a reread of this so I can review it. I first read it when I was about 13/14 and at that moment in time it was like the best thing. It made me feel like I knew things about love and stuff which I didn’t then and I still do not but I could feel all the things. It was like I was in on a secret, I felt like I was these characters and it was probably one of the first really amazing reading experiences I’ve had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Oooh I can’t wait for you to reread it! I have a feeling that you’ll get much more out of this book that you didn’t get the first time because I definitely do think that it’s more of a mature book. I think you’ll be able to see a different side of it that you probably didn’t see when you were 13! Can’t wait to see what you think when you do reread it!


  5. Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks says:

    Ahhh I am so, so happy you finally read this book, and even more that you loved it this much. It’s such an incredible story, with characters that feel real, and a love story so genuine you can’t help but feel for. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, Jenna, and you made me want to re-read it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Holly says:

    This post just reminded me how badly I need to reread E&P! I read it years ago and loved it, although I agree with you about the rather abrupt ending. Still, I became to invested in the characters and the setting to care about much else. I hope she writes a sequel, too!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s