A Review of Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell


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.

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: all the feels; realistic, relatable, butterflies in the stomach love; realistic, gut-churning, horrible home life; I don’t think I even know how to words properly right now

Before this, I had never read Rainbow Rowell.

Go ahead. Gasp. Call it the end of the world. Grind everything to a halt. Tell me I made a mistake. And then repeat yourself. You’re right.

To be honest, I don’t know WHY I didn’t read this book sooner. It’s been sitting on my shelves, waiting patiently, for…over a year? Longer? I mean, it’s second hand. I bought it at a library book sale. The cover is HORRIBLY damaged and dirty. Maybe that was the most of my hesitation—the cover just didn’t say what I WANTED it to. Also, up until recently, I hadn’t read many contemporary. If you’ve been reading my reviews lately, you’ll know I’m trying to change that.

I fell in love with Eleanor almost immediately. She reminds me of myself in middle and high school. I WAS the weird girl. According to most of my schoolmates, I only owned 5 pairs of jeans. I wore my hair weird. I didn’t wear makeup. I didn’t really CARE. And they were right. And Eleanor…she pulls off that same sort of calculated, stubborn facade. She does care…but she cares enough about it to never let anyone else KNOW she cares, because the world knowing would be the worst thing. The world knowing would mean questions, and letting people in. The world knowing…would lead to the world changing.

Eleanor’s home life ripped me to shreds. Even before the big reveal, even before we’re told WHY she was gone for so long, even before the ending, it’s obvious Richie –I kept referring to him as what’s his bucket asshole throughout my entire reading experience—doesn’t like her. It’s obvious he doesn’t want her there. It’s obvious everything’s going to go downhill again, given time.

But for a while, I let myself FORGET about Richie and his stupid jerk face. I let myself forget, because Park sort of…made everything go away. I’ll be honest here: I didn’t really LIKE Park in the first few chapters. I thought he was just like the rest of the idiots on the bus. Stuck up. Jerkish. Pretentious and snide and not worth my time.

I was so, so wrong. And I knew it, as soon as Park and Eleanor actually began talking. The love story Rainbow Rowell wove here…it’s a powerful one. It’s life-changing. It’s the kind that makes you stop and pay attention. It’s the kind people change themselves for because they WANT to, to be better. To be worthy.

The writing is beautiful and endearing and charming and witty. I didn’t find myself laughing out loud most of the time, but the banter between Eleanor and Park usually had me grinning like a fool. The dialogue is both realistic and unique, bringing the characters to life in the ways that matter. I could almost HEAR them talking, they were so set into the words and world. Rainbow Rowell has a way of describing things that make you feel like you’re actually LIVING the story.

This is a book I should have read long before now. It tugged at my heart; it broke me; it patched me back up. I’m not sure how I feel about the ambiguity of the ending, though—I know it’s left open to interpretation. I’ve chosen to interpret it my own way, as is expected…but I don’t know how I feel about NOT knowing.

Regardless, this was a quick, AWESOME read. I highly recommend it—to pretty much everyone. I just wish I had a better copy—I may need to change that in the future.

–this has been cross-posted to tumblr and goodreads

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