One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Listening Library (first published April 12th 2012)
Three stars: A realistic romance with a disappointing open ending.
Eleanor is the new girl on the bus. She is plump, red haired and dressed in thrift store clothes. No one will make room for her to sit, and the driver is growing impatient. Then a Korean boy demands that she sit down. This is the beginning of an unlikely friendship and romance between Park and Eleanor. Eleanor comes from a broken family and lives in horrid circumstances, while Park comes from a solid family and he has plenty of friends. A hesitant friendship blooms on the bus over shared comics and a love of music, and then it blossoms into so much more. Can Park and Eleanor find true love at sixteen?
What I Liked:
- This is my second Rainbow Rowell book, and while I didn't adore this one as much as Fangirl, I was once again sucked in and enamored by the realistic characters and the building of a friendship that turns into a romance. Ms. Rowell writes fantastic, relatable characters that I think most teens will appreciate.
- How I adored the friendship/romance between Eleanor and Park. I loved that it is slow and hesitant at first before it moves into something more. For weeks after Park shares his seat with Eleanor on the bus, they sit and ride in silence every day, until Park notices Eleanor reading his comics along with him. From there, things begin to change once they soon start talking. Park begins sharing his comic books and music with Eleanor and a friendship is born, which eventually moves into new directions. I thought the pace of the romance was perfect, and I loved how Ms. Rowell captured all those awkward feelings that teenagers experience with first loves.
- The writing is descriptive and beautiful and I loved how Ms. Rowell described feelings and emotions. This is definitely a book that will make you feel. There are parts that are so sweet and mushy that you will find yourself smiling and sighing, and others that are so achingly harsh that you will hurt. This is a roller coaster book as you experience the lovely highs of first loves and first kisses to heartbreaking lows as you endure abuse.
- I liked that this book was set in 1986. All the references to eighties pop culture were a blast from the past, as I grew up in this decade. I chuckled at so many things, and I liked recalling how things were when I was young. Young adults today will likely not get some of it, but it is definitely a book that reveals how things were in the 1980s before computers, cell phones, texting and social media.
- The character development is well done and I appreciated the depth and the detail incorporated to bring Park and Eleanor to life. Eleanor with her red hair and plump body is extremely uncomfortable in her skin, not to mention she suffers with a horrible home life. Her insecurities are real and intense and they reminded me of how hard it can be to be a teenager. Park, even though he comes from a solid family, has his own burdens as he is half Asian. His father is a bit overbearing, and Park struggles with their relationship. Park is also battling with his own identity and insecurities.
- I loved seeing how Park's Korean mother changed her opinion of Eleanor and how she took her in under her wing. Park's mom was one of my favorite characters.
- There are several instances of bullying and Eleanor is the victim of a mean girl. I appreciated that the school counselor stepped in to help Eleanor, and that toward the end, Eleanor and her bully come to a new understanding.
And The Not So Much:
- The book ends after a lot of drama and depressing events. The beautiful romance is left hanging and the books finishes open ended. I was so disappointed that after the painstaking journey and the upheaval to reach an end with no resolution. I wanted to pound my head against the wall. I am not a reader that likes to go through a bunch of drama for no pay out. I was very unhappy with the end. Sure I could in my mind make those final three words whatever I wanted, but was it what they really were?
- This is a book that has been banned or recommended to be banned in schools. I am opposed to book banning, but I must address why I can see why people are complaining. This book is real and raw. Eleanor lives with an abusive stepfather. Her stepfather is a horrible person who curses and swears constantly. There is a great deal of foul language and frequent use of the F word throughout the book. I know this is offensive to many people, but in reality, kids unfortunately are exposed to this type of language every day. If you are offended by profane language don't read the book. Is this a good reason to ban a book, not in my opinion, but keep in mind this is a read best suited for more mature readers due to the language and the abuse. There are some scenes with physical abuse, but the author does not go into great detail, there is enough to alert the reader of the abuse, but it is never clear as to the extent.
- I didn't like that there wasn't more information on how Eleanor's family ended up the way that it did. Her family is broken, and for awhile, I thought perhaps Eleanor's dad was dead. Later it is revealed that he is not and her parents divorced. I kept expecting to learn more about the how and why the marriage broke up, but there are only bare hints. I wanted to know why her mother chose to live in such horrible circumstances and all of that.
- I wanted to understand better the relationship between Eleanor and her father. Her father was selfish, but why did she never talk to him about what was really going on? I can't imagine him not wanting to help if he really knew the truth. Was he really that selfish?
- Overall, this was a book that shined as far as characters and relationships, but it falters severely when it comes to the plot and detail. The author doesn't take time to establish the how and why nor explain events. I was left with so many questions and I was extremely disappointed with the way things ended.
Eleanor and Park is a book that follows the fledging romance between two awkward teens. Experience the highs and lows of first love, while exploring the angst of being a teen. This is a book for mature readers only as it has profane language and situations of abuse. Even though I was bothered by the open ending, this is one that I would recommend because of the realistic characters and beautiful writing. Be warned, this is a bit dark and depressing, if you want something lighter I recommend Fangirl by this author.
I borrowed a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.