Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on 2013-02-26
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook

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, The New York Times Book Review

My Review:

Have you ever put off reading a book because you know that there is no way it can be as perfect as it is, unread, in your head?  That’s been the case for me with Eleanor and Park.  I’ve read Rowell before (Attachments) and I’ve purchased Fangirl, and I want to read it, but first I knew I needed to pick up E&P.  So, as I sit here coming off of a brutal first semester of graduate school and many, many books read that have challenged me, I knew I needed to pick something up that would make me laugh, a bit. Make me cry, a bit.  And, basically, remind me of what it’s like to live life and be young, a bit.

I definitely got that with Eleanor and Park.  This is what I loved the most about this book – although Eleanor does not fit the mold of most female YA protagonists, there’s not a big deal made over that, really.  Rowell is realistic.  Eleanor, at one point, realizes she’s not that “nice” girl that you bring home to your parents.  She’s Eleanor. And the best part of that realization is when Park affirms that’s what he sees in her – that she’s not something that is the same old same old, she’s something different.

The same goes for Park.  I loved seeing him break out and grow throughout the year (and man, 1986 – what a great year for a book to be set – I was 10 years old in 1986 and loved life).  I loved seeing his family dynamics change, the love (and lust) his parents had for each other, the stereotypes they also had to break through and the growth they had.  You know what else I loved? Having parents up front and center in a young adult book.  And not just any parents, a wide variety of the sort – from absent fathers, to brutal step-fathers, to worn-down mothers, to functional marriages with their own problems and, hey, even grandparents.  I loved seeing the mean guys actually step up and show humanity in instances, and seeing family step in to protect and care for one of their own.

Basically, Eleanor and Park reminded me of life.  Messy, full of big moments and not-so-big moments, that can break your heart or fill it so full you don’t even know how to breathe.  I wish I had been given this book as a teenager (and that it had existed to be given to me).  And I love, love, love Rowell for choosing Omaha to set it in – a place that was home to me in 1986.  Now, I can’t wait to crack open Fangirl.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I started the book expecting it to be cute, understandably, so I wasn’t prepared for how utterly moving and incredibly sad it was. “ –  Prettybooks
  • “Rowell beautifully and elegantly frames scene by scene the budding and doomed love between Eleanor and Park, two adolescents joined by qualities that Rowell examines without romanticizing, without condescending. ” – The Becoming Radical
  • Eleanor & Park has this slow, messy, beautiful, strange, broken, healing quality to it that sucked me in from the start.” – Writer of Wrongs

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