Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published: April 12, 2012 by Orion
(to be published in the US on February 26, 2013 by St Martin's Press)
Received: Purchased via fishpond.com
"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.This book encompasses all the beauty there is in falling in love for the first time when you're a teenager. I felt myself falling in love all over again while reading Eleanor and Park's story. Rowell has produced the best of the best when it comes to young adult contemporary. The writing is clean and flawless, but every once in awhile a hiccup will come along that leaves you breathless, or laughing out loud (literally). I felt so many emotions while reading this story; and for me, that means this book went above and beyond in its story-telling.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"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 AND 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. [goodreads]
Eleanor comes from a very broken home. Her clothes are bought at goodwill, and she's lucky if she gets fed a proper meal at home. She's lived a very hard life for someone who is only sixteen. Now that she's the new girl in school, the torture of being a teenager doesn't let up. She's constantly picked on for her vibrant red hair, or how different she dresses. Eleanor puts on a brave face and chooses to ignore the ridicule, but as the reader you start to see how each slam is slowly breaking her a part.
Then there is Park. He's by far one of my favorite male characters in a young adult novel. I adored his innocent, yet eager personality. Before he even realizes it, he's drawn to Eleanor, and what begins as one nice gesture opens up to be a beautiful friendship. The story is told in alternating view points, so as the reader you get a better look inside the lives of both Eleanor and Park. We see the struggles they both encounter in their daily life, but then we also get to see the emotions that begin to evolve from their new-found relationship.
I loved the attention to detail when it came to Eleanor and Park's relationship. It starts out incredibly slow, but I never once felt like it was dragging. The slow build just added to the cherry on top. My favorite moment in the story involved their first hand holding experience. I've never read a scene that made me swoon so incredibly much just over the simple act of holding hands. Rowell's ability to capture everything and then some really caught my eye as a reader. As someone who grew up in the 80s, I couldn't get enough of the pop culture references. From the music, to the fashion, and all the popular TV shows; Rowell did an excellent job of keeping the story true to the decade.
As the story progresses, so does Eleanor and Park's journey of falling in love for the first time. Their lives, especially Eleanor's, is not easy, and we surrender ourselves to be taken along for a ride that we never want to end. With just this one novel, Rainbow Rowell has been added to my instant read list. Sometimes it just takes one particular story, written with all the elements you adore so much, to completely win you over. Eleanor & Park has done just that.