July 14, 2013
Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
2013 St. Martin’s Griffin
Finished on 6/23/13
Rating: 4.75/5 (Outstanding!)
“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.” ~ John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
From the author’s website:
“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re 16.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
“I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
Yep. I remember mine. (Who doesn’t remember their first love? Even after 36 years?) His name was Kevin and he had blond hair, blue eyes and drove a Chevy El Camino. We met at the end of my freshman year (he was a junior) at a mutual friend’s baseball practice. From that day on, we spent the rest of the summer together, hanging out at the beach, going to the races (Del Mar, Where the Turf Meets the Surf!), wandering around the Del Mar Fair, hanging out at his house, watching endless hours of MLB (we preferred the Dodgers over the Padres) or listening to Boston, Styxx, Foreigner, Little River Band and Bob Seeger on vinyl albums, played on his Pioneer stereo system (which, of course, had HUGE speakers). Later that year, we saw The Doobie Brothers and Pablo Cruise in concert, went with his parents and brother to the Pasadena Rose Bowl (Huskies vs Wolverines) and danced the night away at the Christmas formal. I cheered him on at our football games (he was a wide receiver) and sunbathed on the beach while he surfed with his buddies. For Christmas, he gave me a beautiful roll-top cedar chest, which he made in woodshop. I no longer have that lovely gift, but thanks to Rainbow Rowell’s novel, I was instantly transported back to the summer of ’77 and my first high school romance.
Teen fiction isn’t a genre I typically read, but there have been some winners over the years (The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and The 5th Wave, to name just a few.), so when I started hearing all the buzz about Rowell’s teen debut, I decided to give it a try. I was immediately drawn into this gem of a book and quickly came to care about Eleanor and Park. This is not your typical teenage angst-ridden story and the authentic dialogue made me laugh out loud one minute and tugged at my heartstrings the next. Although I graduated from high school in 1980, I still enjoyed all the 80’s references and was eager to listen to the music mentioned in the narrative. Click here to listen to Eleanor & Park’s playlists.
I was sorry to miss out on the author’s visit and book signing at work, but I hadn’t finished the novel and was worried someone might reveal a spoiler. I only had a few chapters remaining and was completely invested in the story. The last thing I wanted was to hear a fan to blurt out the ending before I had a chance to read it for myself.
Final Thoughts: This is going on my list for a re-read! I’ve heard the audio version is very good too, so I’ll probably go that route. I also want to read Attachments, which is general fiction (as opposed to teen fiction) written in e-epistolary format. As with Eleanor & Park, it’s received glowing reviews.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Half-Korean sophomore Park Sheridan is getting through high school by lying low, listening to the Smiths (it’s 1986), reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen comics, never raising his hand in class, and avoiding the kids he grew up with. Then new girl Eleanor gets on the bus. Tall, with bright red hair and a dress code all her own, she’s an instant target. Too nice not to let her sit next to him, Park is alternately resentful and guilty for not being kinder to her. When he realizes she’s reading his comics over his shoulder, a silent friendship is born. And slowly, tantalizingly, something more. Adult author Rowell (Attachments), making her YA debut, has a gift for showing what Eleanor and Park, who tell the story in alternating segments, like and admire about each other. Their love is believable and thrilling, but it isn’t simple: Eleanor’s family is broke, and her stepfather abuses her mother. When the situation turns dangerous, Rowell keeps things surprising, and the solution—imperfect but believable—maintains the novel’s delicate balance of light and dark. Ages 13–up.
About the author:
Rainbow earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1995 and at, 24, became the youngest-ever – and first female – columnist at the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. She's also the author of Attachments.