Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: St Martin’s Press February 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 14 to 17, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy St Martin’s Press/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel, Attachments last year so I eagerly requested Eleanor and Park for review, particularly given the promise of mid 80’s pop culture references. (I’m an 80’s tragic). A contemporary young adult novel, Eleanor and Park introduces two sixteen year old’s whose mutual antipathy evolves into passionate relationship, after being forced to share a seat on the school bus.

While Park, who is half Korean in the almost all white Omaha community he has grown up in, has avoided becoming a target of high school bullies, thanks in part to his friendship with his popular neighbours Steve and Tina, he has always been conscience that his looks set him apart from his peers. When new girl Eleanor, with wild red hair, a thrift store wardrobe and a solid figure steps on the bus, Park recognises her vulnerabilities immediately but defending her is out of the question, though he begrudgingly makes one small concession, offering to share his seat.

Eleanor would rather be anywhere else than on a school bus in Omaha but she has no choice. After an argument with her abusive step father, Eleanor’s mother asked family friends to take Eleanor in for a few days to give him a chance to cool down but it was a year before he let her return, and Eleanor doesn’t want to give him another excuse to separate her from her mother and three younger siblings. Crowded in a ramshackle two bedroom house, the family lives on a shoestring while her step father drinks their money away. Eleanor’s clothes come from thrift stores, basics like shampoo and a toothbrush are considered a luxury she doesn’t deserve and she knows that she will be a target at school. All she can do is ignore the cruel taunts of ‘Big Red’ and keep to herself.

The perspective alternates between that of Eleanor and Park so we have insight into what both are thinking and feeling not only about each other but also regarding their separate experiences. I fell in love with both characters, Park is a sweetheart and I was very sympathetic to Eleanor.

I loved how Rowell developed the blossoming relationship between Eleanor and Park, beginning with Park realising Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder. A tentative friendship forms with casual concessions, all without speaking, until Park makes an overture that surprises even him. Their romance, when it happens, has that teenage intensity familiar to most of us where every touch is thrilling and every glance loaded with meaning.

Eleanor and Park was much darker and more complicated than I expected. Eleanor’s life is difficult and the underlying threat from her stepfather is always present. Park’s home may be happy but has some issues with his father in particular. There is not the happy ending you may expect here either, though it fits the novel and is far more realistic than I usually expect from the YA genre.

Eleanor and Park is a charming, poignant story of first love. Beautifully written, this is a must read for fans of contemporary YA and anyone who still has a mix tape buried in their closet,

*For those too young to know: mix tapes = playlists except on cassette 🙂 I still have a few I was given, but have nothing to play them on anymore.

Available to Purchase

@MacmillanUS I @Amazon I @Book Depository

In Australia via Booko

AU/UK Cover

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Danielle
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 10:21:07

    Hey! Great review!

    I had the exact same problem with this book – I thought it was very dark, and a little bit ‘hope-less’ for being YA. And then someone told me that while it’s being marketed to YA in the UK, in America it is an adult book. And I think that would have changed my entire outlook on the book …. because I was reading it thinking “wow, teenagers reading this are going to come away with very few silver linings.”

    I think I was also so excited for this one after reading Rowell’s lovely, romantic book ‘Attachments’ – and this book such *such* a change-up, I couldn’t see much of the author I thought I’d come to know – if that makes any sense?



  2. booksaremyfavouriteandbest
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 11:23:34

    I also thought it was dark but remember all that teenage angst when you were that age? Everything was soooooo dramatic?!



  3. Mystica
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 13:09:26

    I cannot understand the bullying part of the schools. This is absent here though there are other divisions of the haves and have nots but bullying to the extent found in here will not be tolerated by teachers who will step in immediately. In such incidents teachers and principals I wonder what they do.



  4. Tea Time with Marce
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 13:48:28

    A mixed tape, lmao, love that Shellyerae. I have a few too and forgot I don’t have anything to play them on, hahahhaa

    I really enjoyed Attachments so want to try this also even though YA is not my cup of tea. Glad to hear it is darker than expected.



  5. Trackback: Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell – 9/10 | Reading With Tea

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