Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixed tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park is funny, sad, shocking and true - an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.
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The book starts out with 16-year-old Eleanor tentatively moving back in with her weak-willed co-dependent mother, her many younger siblings, and her drunkard stepfather after a year of being pawned off on a family friend. Plus-sized, redheaded, and nearly destitute in her wardrobe options, her first day at a new school—and first time on a new bus—goes about as well as one would expect. Her one bit of a social break comes when Park notices her plight, takes a sort of irritated pity, and assists by rudely ordering her to sit next to him. From that point on Eleanor both benefits and suffers under Park's unwitting social umbrella.
Initially, the two don't speak to each other at all. This oddly believable awkwardness goes on so long, Park doesn't seem to know how to break it once he begins to take a vague interest in the girl.
They are both outsiders, in a sense. Park is a music and comic book absorbed loner, who's half-Korean heritage and largely functional family set him apart from all the other kids in their neighborhood. And when he catches Eleanor reading his comics along with him on the bus ride, he immediately starts sending her home with them. This naturally progresses to him sharing his music with her, and this new found comradeship steadily transitions into hand-holding...rapidly intensifying from there into mutual attraction and deepening connectivity. (I've noted some reviewers balk at the speed of their relational development, but given Eleanor's unhealthy home life and Park's insecurities over his self-identity, this reader personally found their relationship rang with hormonal teen authenticity.)
Eleanor & Park is more than just a dated, star-crossed teen lovers premise with a lot of heavy 80's pop-culture references. It's a story that revolves around the timeless politics of fickle high school social-strata, juxtaposed to home-life drama—some of it petty and some of it desperately serious in nature. It takes a thoughtful-yet-impactful look at judging and misjudging others—be they friends, acquaintances, or family. There's also a poignant look at the perspective variances that can result from differences in class. But it's ultimately in the handling of Eleanor's horrendous domestic situation that this reader found the most enduring value.
The prose has a steady, organic flow, with peripheral characters gradually coming into clearer relational focus as the plot progresses. The emotional conveyances are frequently visceral, and the layers of conflict subtly unwrapped—which is likely to keep readers engaged. The main characters are both flawed and endearing in their own unique ways. And the ending, while somewhat flexibly unresolved, could still be considered satisfying.
I made the mistake of listening to the audiobook. I DO NOT recommend this. While the male narrator did a fine job of voicing Park, his attempts at Eleanor's lines were mind-wrenchingly distracting. But beyond that, this YA book has more frequent use of the F-word than I recall finding in even the grittiest thriller or sci-fi novels I've ever encountered. Yes, it was that excessive—and hearing it over and over poses a problem for audio learners like me (i.e. if I hear it, I tend to have trouble not spitting it back out at inopportune times.) Never mind the fact that I was listening to this in the car and I quickly discovered I couldn't play it with my kids in any kind of earshot—headphones on or no. Could the author have handled that differently? That's not for me to say. To her credit, the language was largely used to both demonstrate teenage immaturity and help reinforce identification of the more villainous characters. I simply regret that it makes me hesitate to recommend the book to the teens it might actually help. (Also, I worry it may inadvertently cause a sort of exclusivity—as not all kids facing abusive situations are accustomed to and/or enthralled with this much vulgarity.)
Language choices aside, I also would have liked to see more growth in the relationship between Park and his father--which I felt like we were being set up for but sort of fell along the wayside.
There's so much to love about this book. The world building is superb--as a girl who grew up in the 80's, I recognized myself and my music. Every detail, from the clothing to the hair styles to the sensory descriptions of the setting, painted a vivid picture so that each scene played out like a movie in my mind.
The characters are fully realized, complex, flawed, and interesting. Readers will connect with both Eleanor and Park and will cheer for them to find a happily ever after even when it seems impossible. Eleanor's home life and the trauma in her past make her feel like the more complex character at first, but Park has layers of his own, and Ms. Rowell does an excellent job of created two very realistic and accessible characters who have equal stakes in the story's outcome. The story is told from both perspectives, and this technique worked well for these characters.
The relationships in this book make it stand out because every single relationship is nuanced and complicated in some way, and that rings true for real life as well. There's no insta-love between Eleanor and Park. They begin the story disliking each other and slowly move toward understanding, appreciation, and eventually, love. Their romance requires them to stand up to peer pressure and to make hard choices when it comes to the risks they're willing to take. The angst, the swoony first-love emotions, the arguments, and the all-consuming focus are absolutely authentic for a first real love relationship, and readers will delight in the story of Eleanor and Park.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I would've liked an epilogue or a tiny bit more information at the ending (I can't say why without spoiling it for new readers), but at the same time, I understood the choices the author made, and those choices felt natural for her characters.
Eleanor and Park is a compelling story that is as much about courage and our capacity to heal as it is about the consuming highs and lows of first love.
Eleanor & Park sets itself apart from they typical young adult read on just about every level: the setting, the main characters, the touching plot. These elements combine to make a read that moves the reader and warms the heart. Whatever expectations I had going into Eleanor & Park were simply blown away, and it will no doubt be on the list of my favorite reads of 2013.
Set in the 1980s, Eleanor & Park is the story of two misfit teens in Omaha. Many YA novels purport to be about teenagers who simply do not fit in, and, truly, almost every teen feels that way inside. However, Eleanor, and to a lesser degree Park, really do stand out from the rest of the teens at their high school. Park is Asian, the only Asian kid in school, except for his brother who takes after their white father in appearance. Eleanor, well, she doesn't dress normal or look normal or act normal.
Eleanor & Park opens on Eleanor's first day at school, having been away from her family for a year. She gets on the bus that first morning and everyone eyes her thrift store men's clothing over her chubby frame. They immediately recognize her as a target of mockery, dubbing her "raghead" and "Big Red." As she searches for a seat, every available space is suddenly filled with a backpack or saved for someone. Finally, Park, just to make it stop, allows her to sit with him, regretting his kindness even as he does so, fearing that he'll earn the attention of the popular, bullying kids. I love that their first encounter is so awful, and how unflattering Park's first thoughts are. So much of high school is about avoiding embarrassment, and the awkward new girl is just that. This portrayal is so honest.
Of course, as time goes by, Eleanor and Park slowly bond, not even speaking at first. He reads comics everyday on the bus, and he begins to notice her reading along. He starts flipping pages more slowly, giving her time to read the whole thing. Then he starts loaning them to her over night. From there, they enter into conversations, whispered quietly on the bus. Their thoughts on the X-Men (feminist or not?), Batman (boring or cool?), the pirate storyline in Watchmen (to be skipped or crucial to the comic?) shift gradually into conversations on music. Park brings new life into Eleanor's drab existence with the best of 1980s pop culture.
Eleanor and her four siblings live with her mother and their drunken, abusive step-father, Richie. Her home life has no charms. The kids wear odd clothing grabbed by their mother with any extra money. They fight over toys, like boxes that fruit come in, because that's the best they ever really hope to get. All five sleep in a single room, often hiding in there from the shouts of Richie. Eleanor, especially, knows how terrible Richie can be, and she never ever feels safe.
Park becomes Eleanor's safe haven. Their relationship unfolds slowly, growing at a steady pace into a strong burn. I loved watching them learn to know one another's insecurities, and to accept them. This acceptance doesn't make the insecurities disappear entirely, but it does help. Neither Eleanor nor Park ever felt right in their own skins, and their burgeoning love comes as close to making them feel whole as anything could. I don't usually believe to much in young love, but I really hope these two crazy kids can make it, despite or because of all of the real world difficulties they have to face. Rowell doesn't overly romanticize their relationship, but she also doesn't attempt to diminish their feelings.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I can't think of a single thing I want to be different.
The Final Verdict:
Eleanor & Park is, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2013, though much of it remains. Rowell has written an incredibly moving story about first love, and about the importance of having a support network, even if it's not your family. This book is brilliant, and I will most certainly be reading any more Rowell novels I can get my hands on.
Despite the 80s setting, this book felt timeless- a story that could reach across the ages. Eleanor and Park slowly begin to learn more about each other and fall in love. Considering all the bigger issues they have to deal with, the book ends up focusing on the relationship in the context of everything else going on. There were sections that were absolutely heart-breaking and others that just made me smile. This was a worthwhile read.
The ending is very open, and as a person who likes closure, this was not my favorite. However, the build up of the book was fantastic and their relationship was the sweetest. I also really loved Park's parents, who had a great role in the story. This is a really great and touching read for people who like YA romance!
I just really liked it.
AND the main characters are music/comic geeks
AND one of the main characters is a POC
AND the other main character is fat
AND basically everything about it is adorable and awesome.
My main issue was Eleanor's family dynamic. It's not that I didn't understand that circumstances like hers come around, sure I get it, but the way it played out in the book confused me. Her mother had sounded like a beautiful, strong woman and wonderful devoted mother in the flashbacks and suddenly was this frightened, submissive woman who was leaving her children in an absolutely terrible situation.
I found it hard to believe. Why would she leave her stable, beautiful home for Ritchie to live in a shack. I found it hard to believe that such a devoted mother would allow a practically strange man throw her first born child out of the house for standing up for her family.
Nothing about him sounded appealing and I find it hard to believe that the woman Eleanor described from the past, would find herself so desperate she would overlook everything horrible about him. Maybe I'm just overestimating humanity on this one. Since her whole family situation is a major dynamic of the book I found myself turning this confusion over and over again in my mind as the story played on.
Things I liked. The way Eleanor and Park fall in love. It's not instant, in fact, they don't even like each other at first. It's gradual and subtle and well, just downright adorable. The way their relationship grows and develops is far more realistic than most teen books we pick up off the shelf these days.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves teen romance, and real life stories.
-Isn't afraid to touch on real issues
READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE: http://theroundtheclockperuser.blogspot.com/2015/07/book-review-eleanor-park.html
Eleanor & Park is the second Rowell book I read. I read Attachments last October and even though it was a bit weird (because of the sort of stalker-ish guy) I loved every part of it. In my short review I said her work is 'a Stephanie Perkins of adult sweet romances'.
In a world of insta-love Rainbow delivers a stellar story about two misfits. During their bus rides they start to read comics together and listen to Park's Walkman. Eleanor lives with her mother, stepfather and 3 other siblings. Her stepdad is a abusing bastard, mom is just taking it and her siblings are tattle tales. On the other side we have Park and his biggest concern is to learn how to drive a stick.
I'd love to give you more insight about the whole story itself but I'm afraid I'll reveal way too much so you're just going to have to trust my word for it. After all, I'm not one of those easily impressed readers. Hell, check my average GR rating. It's embarrassingly low.
It's hard to explain Rainbow's magic. You're either her fan or not. Her books are on my auto-buy list. If you don't mind reading a slow and steady young adult contemporary romance and love authors like Sara Zarr, Stephanie Perkins, Sarah Ockler or Sarah Dessen. Basically, any author with an S in the name will do. :P
Reading Eleanor & Park was an awesome experience. It surprised me with how amazing it was. I felt so connected not just with the characters but everything else. I felt connected to the whole story itself like every small part of it was a part of my body. It made me smile and laugh at unexpected times, but it also made me cry. It wasn’t dramatic at all but the way it was written already hooked me from the start that every move the character made greatly affected me.
The characters were amazing. A few bloggers already said that this book was like the TV series, My Mad Fat Diary so the way Rae looked stuck with me while I was reading the whole story. I just have to change her hair color to Eleanor’s red hair and add a few things with her outfit but it was pretty much the same (in my head anyway). What was different and amazing about it was that Eleanor wasn’t the typical female protagonists that was usually seen in YAs. Although most female characters were not popular or sometimes bullied, they were usually thin or actually beautiful if only they wore the right clothes and didn’t hide their body. Or that they were actually prettier than the mean girl but for some reasons, only the male lead character notices this. Here in Eleanor & Park, Eleanor was nothing like that. She was weird and big. She wears weird clothes that seems to scream that she doesn’t care what others think (but she actually does). In short (and to be blunt), she was not attractive at all but she still stood out above them all. Yes, she was weird but she’s pretty amazing too. While reading, I totally understood why Park was attracted to her. She is the kind of person that I want to be friends with; someone who’s smart and passionate about things they love. It made me want to hug her every time she talks about music. I can clearly picture her out with her eyes shining while unknowingly flashing a huge smile.
Park was adorable, amazing, cool, endearing, precious, epic, etc. He will be, without a doubt, go to my book boyfriends list. It all started with his conscience and that 6 inches of space that separated them in the bus, but everything after that was like fireworks. For some reasons, I see him as a hope that there are still guys who are into girls not because of how they look. But above all of Park’s awesomeness, what I loved most about him was his flaws. He sometimes showed some insecurities and sometimes has this urge to please other people just to fit it. And while those might be typical stuff teenagers went through, it was shown how this would contradict to what he wanted to do or what he was supposed to feel about something. It made him more real and more human.
Other than the two of them, another favourite of mine was Park’s parents. They weren’t perfect and there were times when I wanted to hate them for what they said or the decision they made but despite that, they were sweet and understanding. Park’s mother and father might have differences with Eleanor and Park, respectively, but they still made up for it and really tried. And it was really nice to see parents in YAs who are still very much in love with each other.
Eleanor’s family was—ugh, I can’t even think about them right now. Although they are in a very poor situation and that I’m supposed to sympathize, I can’t help but get pissed with them. Maybe more pissed with the mother than the kids, but pissed nonetheless. I really hate it when parents can’t fight for their kids and I kept waiting Eleanor’s mom to stand up for herself and for her children the whole time I was reading it. Although Eleanor said that her dad didn’t want her or implied that he was a jerk whenever he was mentioned, I can’t help but see that he was actually better than her mother. If only they had the option to stay with him. Her and her siblings.
I can’t help but want more after that ending. But somehow, it also felt right for it to end that way. Like Eleanor usually said, it just stopped. It was like there was no ending, it just stopped. Whatever they felt for each other was still the same and although there were a lot of changes, it felt like nothing has changed.. at least between them (except the obvious).
I am in love with this story. I am in love with the characters. I am in love with every piece of this book.
“Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?”
Eleanor and Park is a contemporary romance novel. Normally, I wouldn't read any books that were set in the 1980's, but this was one exception due to all the hype around this book. I absolutely think that this book lives up to its hype.
I loved Eleanor. Everything she felt, I felt as well. I was crying and crying over what she was feeling. All the insecurities she was facing with definitely represents some of the challenges other girls are dealing with now. My heart broke into two when her clothes was stolen and she was forced to walk around in her gym suit. Eleanor was ashamed of her body, yet she tried her best to embrace it. Eleanor struggled with life but yet she kept moving forward.
Park and Eleanor were so cute. I loved how they met, their witty conversations and their love for comics and music. I was crying happily whenever they were talking. One of my friends called me dramatic because I was crying.
I didn't like the ending. I was absorbing the ending and when I flipped the page, hoping to see that Eleanor and Park would meet each other again, I ended flipping to the acknowledgement page. I know lots of other readers enjoyed the ending, but I didn't. I wanted more.
Overall, Eleanor and Park was a great YA novel. I can't wait for her new book, Fangirl to be released!