Published by Orion Children's on February 1, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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Two misfits.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.
It’s amazing how many books I’ve read that don’t accurately portray the first feelings of romance. That shyness you feel when you start to like someone, the butterflies in your stomach when you find out they like you back and the constant longing and obsession over the next time you’ll see them again.
That’s what Eleanor and Park captured really well. Whether you’re 15 or 40, whether you’ve fallen in love before or you’re still to experience this wonderful and all encapsulating feeling. This is how it feels like.
No, it’s not instant love, when you suddenly see someone you like, they like you back and then WALLAH you’re in love. Like so many YA romances like to portray. It’s that slight curiosity of someone who piques your interest, someone who catches you off guard when you least expect it, and after getting to know them better, you realise just how much you like them.
The surly, slightly overweight and unkempt Eleanor and the loyal, inquisitive and super sweet half-Korean Park, made an unlikely couple. But a believable one, as they learn about each other and experiment with their developing feelings, slowly over the course of the book. They’re young, these feelings are all new to them, and they’re still discovering themselves. Eleanor is going through a lot, being bullied as the new kid and dealing with a broken and abusive family, while Park is still finding himself as the school’s only Asian kid.
“I miss you, Eleanor. I want to be with you all the time. You’re the smartest girl I’ve ever met, and the funniest, and everything you do surprises me…”
They find a common friend in one another, and it was beautiful to watch unfold. Like Park, it’s often easy to get swept up in these new feelings, thinking things are going to last forever. It was incredibly sweet seeing just how much he wanted to make a difference in Eleanor’s life, knowing that being there for her in her time of need was the most important thing he could do.
Eleanor however, was a pretty rough character. She’s going through some pretty rough stuff, and she isn’t the world’s most likeable character. She keeps secrets from Park, from people who want to help her, because she’s being bullied and abused, at home and at school. My heart reached out to her so much, because she just can’t open herself to the world after being so closed in. Her home situation is absolutely terrible, but I felt like she was stringing Park along the whole time. You can’t be in a true relationship without being honest to the other person, and Eleanor was a closed book.
“There’s no reason to think we’re going to stop loving each other…and there’s every reason to think that we won’t.”
But you know what? This is real life people. You’ll meet people from a variety of backgrounds, families and beliefs. Some people will be in it for the right reasons, and others won’t. And whether that is right or wrong, is up to you. To choose whether you can accept it for what it is, and to go along with it.
Some of the dialogue in Eleanor and Park, however, felt awkward and stunted. For the lack of a better word, there’s this weird, unseemly tone throughout the whole book. There are times when it will get so confronting that feelings of unease will tear through you. This is in no way, a fluffy romance. With issues of abuse, bullying, marginalisation, and the lack of justice for many of these issues, it will leave you with a lasting impression.
Eleanor and Park accurately captured those first feelings of attraction and love. It brings you back to a time of innocence, but it’s also mixed with some darker tones of abuse and bullying. I loved the nostalgic 80’s setting which Rainbow Rowell excels at and how both characters were well-rounded with their share of issues. Although I had trouble connecting with Eleanor, this is one of the most unique, diverse and realistic YA contemporary romances I’ve read.
Rating: 4 out of 5