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.
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.