by Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
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.
To use the popular term today: “Oh, the feels!” I don’t know what took me so long to read this book, but I’m so glad that I got it from the library. I read it in less than a week (instead of reading the books that I am supposed to be reviewing over at The Best Books Ever!)
Eleanor reminded me a lot of myself when I was a teenager: overweight, red headed, and an outsider. However, Eleanor certainly had a much more difficult life than I did. She lives with her mother, alcoholic step-father, and step siblings in a house obviously too small for a family of that size. Her step-father is abusive in ways that I can’t even fathom, and has kicked Eleanor out of the house on one previous occasion. Eleanor has no privacy and no freedom to discover herself during her critical teen years. Then, she meets Park. Park is an outsider too, but one of those outsiders who TRIES to be cool.
What I loved about this book was that Eleanor and Park’s love wasn’t an “insta-romance.” They quietly befriend each other and resist temptation. They sneak around behind her parents’ back, even risk their lives for each other. Eleanor is awkward and unsure, and Park constantly asks himself why he is attracted to someone outside his usual comfort zone. They both know what they’re doing is crazy, but they dare to do it anyway.
I frequently compare this book to the Fault in Our Stars in terms of the romantic elements and emotional impact. In my opinion, it’s certainly written as well as Fault in Our Stars. Both books also dare to take on real-life issues that teens face. Even thought Eleanor and Park takes place in the 1980’s, its themes will resonate with teens today. To me, that’s the best sign of a successful YA novel.