Terri's Reviews > Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
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Jan 28, 2013

it was amazing

I had just read a starred review for "Eleanor and Park" when the manager of our local bookstore handed me the ARC for the book, which will be released in March of 2013. I am so thankful for the wonderful gift that I was given. "Eleanor and Park" is difficult to characterize. Words like "pure" and "sweet" and "quirky" and "tension filled" and "heartbreaking" don't do it justice. However, I will try...

Set in 1986 in Omaho, Nebraska, the story begins on the school bus as Park notices a new student get on the bus. She is immediately pegged as "weird" because of her flaming red hair, strange clothing, and large size. When no one will share his/her seat with her, embarrassed for her, Park says, "Sit down...Jesus-fuck...just sit down." Thus begins a quirky, sweet romance between Eleanor, who comes from a dysfunctional and violent home, and Park, a half-Korean teen, who comes from a "Leave It to Beaver" home. The relationship develops slowly on the bus from sharing a seat in silence, to sharing comic books, to sharing music, to holding hands. Eleanor eventually risks everything when she lies to her mother and step-father and tells them that she is going to her friend, Tina's, house every day after school when she is really going to Park's house, whose family eventually warmly accepts her and includes Eleanor in their lives. When her step-father eventually discovers the truth, everything between Park and Eleanor must change.

The story is told in third person alternately by Eleanor and Park. Their families and classmates play lesser roles but provide much of the conflict that keeps the story moving. There is an underlying tension throughout as the reader waits for the day that Eleanor's step-father blows. It is this tension that propels the plot forward. The reader will fall in love with Eleanor and Park. They are nuanced, multi-layered characters filled with angst and questions and innocence and purity. I cheered for them as their relationship developed, wept for them at the story's end, and thought about them long after I finished reading the book, just as I did after I finished reading novels like "Okay for Now" and "Wonder." As a result, "Eleanor and Park" will go on my "all time favorites" list!

There is much here to think deeply about. The whole idea of trying to look below the surface to see what creates the veneer of those individuals with whom we interact every day was paramount to me as I read "Eleanor and Park." The reasons that Eleanor looks the way she does - having to quick bathe in a bathroom with no door before her father gets home, not having a toothbrush or shampoo or soap with which to bathe, being large boned despite that fact that she is starving, having to scrounge at Goodwill for clothing on those rare occasions when her mother could find money - are secrets that Eleanor guards closely. Park also has a healthy sense of otherness because of his mixed race heritage. There is always a story behind the face that people present to us. Sometimes, if we get to know the story, we can see the individual in an entirely new light.

The whole idea of first love was so beautifully portrayed here. The heartbreak that can accompany first love brought those feelings right back to me. Again, the importance of teens having present adults in their lives was also so utterly clear to me - as well as the number of teens who DON'T have that and the consequences were again reinforced here.

This is a beautiful, beautiful book that will appeal to both male and female teens - especially those with their own sense of otherness, and those who are not afraid of sensitive, emotional stories. Highly, highly recommended!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Erin Cobb Oh! You wrote exactly how I felt about this book. And I *knew* we were twin-readers when I read far enough to know that you put this book up there with Okay for Now and Wonder!
:) Erin

Terri I am curious. Would you recommend this book to your middle school students? (I work with high school students.)

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

would you like to read Blue Is Sad? It's kinda like E&P. It's about first love and growing up in the media's eyes and alcoholism. I think you'll like it. http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Sad-Emily-...

Terri Erin - I am so glad you loved this book! It just won a Michael L. Printz Award on Monday. It is my favorite of the year for sure!

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