Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (web | tweet)
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: young love, scary step-parents, biracial characters, curvy female YA characters
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thank you!)
Summary: Eleanor is the new kid at Park’s school; she dresses crazy and has big, red hair that makes her stand out in a crowd. On her first bus ride to school, Eleanor sits by Park who is agitated by having to share his seat. Slowly and beautifully, Eleanor and Park forge a friendship that leads to falling in love for the first time.
Dear Rainbow Rowell,
You forever and always will have me as a lifelong reader and fan of your work. Thank you for writing a book I will declare one of my favorite 2013 reads. Eleanor and Park completely and utterly absorbed me. Your writing is poetic, spot-on-descriptive, and made me want to cry because I could relate to every word you poured out.
From several glowing reviews I read before beginning your book, I was pretty sure it would be something I would love. I saw it described as “a cute love story” and “adorable.” But you see, Rainbow, while those things are accurate, for someone like me your story was so much more than young love. I felt like pieces of your story could have been written (though not nearly as perfectly, of course) by me. I, too, fell in love with my husband at a young age (when I was 16). Your words made me tear up at some of the most innocent scenes because I understood how Eleanor felt about her body — her insecurities about her curves and having to wear the same Goodwill clothes over and over because her family just couldn’t afford more.
I cringed when you made me remember what it was like to grow up in a home where friends weren’t welcome to come over because our living conditions were less than ideal. I understood how it felt to put up a front and to not let people’s comments (like Eleanor from her bullies) bother me because there were bigger, scarier things to worry about where my family was concerned. You explored these details so subtly, but for me, they stood out as if they were bolded and underlined.
What I feel most people will admire about your story is how Eleanor and Park so perfectly fall in love. Their love is sweet and innocent, but not without their fair share of complications to make it believable and realistic. Park has a few best friends who refuse to accept Eleanor. She has to lie about her whereabouts to her mom because her over-protective step-dad would flip if he knew she was spending time with a boy. But you know what I love most? The friendship that developed into more over time. It’s real. It’s not easy. They don’t always understand each other, but they’re gentle and kind and caring toward one another — falling in love despite (or maybe because of) their flaws.
All of this young love stuff? You got it so right. The slow build and trust issues were impeccably flawless. I held my breath for pages as you explored the meaningfulness of what holding hands for the first time with someone you’re falling in love with feels like. The significance of locking eyes and with that boy when you’re so used to having your eyes glued to the ground, trying to be as invisible as possible, is immeasurable. Eleanor may have thought Park was too good to be true, and Park may have feared that their relationship was temporary because we’re taught that young love is fleeting, but Rainbow, you delivered a message that needs to be heard.
Sometimes, love saves our lives.
Please, please keep doing what you’re doing and sharing your talent with us all. I may go broke pre-ordering copies of your books for all my friends, but for the sake of spreading your stories, I vow to continue doing so.
Your biggest, newest fan,