Feb 23, 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publishing Date: February 26, 2013
Pages/Format: 320, ARC

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"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 & 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.

Initial Reaction of Book in One Word: LOVELOVELOVE

Where do I begin? Going into this book, I was looking for something amazing, something that would pull me out of the reading slump I felt coming on. I figured this book would either be really good--like Anna and the French Kiss, even though I never find anything on that level--or just okay. Well guess what. Eleanor & Park is at the same level as Anna and the French Kiss--and that means it absotively, posilutely, must be read. 

There were only a few things I didn't like or had problems with (but they don't really matter because I've decided to overlook them because this book is so awesome). It may be because they're not used a whole lot, but there were a few too many ellipses for my taste, and some formatting confused me. There were some scenes I couldn't picture properly for some reason--wording, maybe? (But this is super minor.)--and some of the references were lost on me since I, unfortunately, did not exist in the 80s. I did, however, learn some things. Like that the makeout section in Happy Days was called Inspiration Point (hahahahahaha) and that people didn't go out--they were "going together." Part of what drew me to this book in the first place was that it was set in the 80s, and I've been wanting a John Hughes-esque 80s book forever. (Or since I started listening to "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco.) But like I said, these things didn't matter because I just LOVED this book so much. (And because it's an ARC and it's not all final.)

One of the things I really liked about this book was the characters. It's told from the alternating POVs of Eleanor and Park, who, as the synopsis says, fall in love. However, they're not your average two teens in love, and this isn't your average boy-meets-girl-they-fall-in-love story--which I didn't expect. I thought this was going to be all happy and cutesy but it was so much more than that (and it was all good). Eleanor is the new girl in school who grabs Park's attention, as well as the attention of others, and she's different. She has big, curly red hair (they call her Big Red, among other not-so-nice things) and doesn't have the body of a model or the average girl, hence the cruelty of several students. And she dresses kind of like a boy. To make matters more complicated, her life at home isn't very good. (Re: Stepdad from Hell.) Then there's Park, a Korean, comic- and music-loving guy who also kicks butt in tae-kwon-do. While his life is far from perfect, he still has it better than Eleanor. Not they're suicidal or anything, but together they give each other reasons to exist, to live. The minor characters were great--I loved Park's parents, especially his mother, and Eleanor's friends from gym class were hilarious. Some characters were douches, some were kind, but they all played their roles well and had a purpose, which I really liked.

(Minor spoilers ahead. As in, I'm sort of telling you what happens and when, but you know it's going to happen.) I think there's something extremely successful when a writer can put off a kiss for forever but not make you mad or upset about it and still give you feels. That totally happened in this book. Park would just touch Eleanor's wrist and rub his thumb on it and HELLO BUTTERLFIES IN MY STOMACH. Seriously. It took quite some time for those two to finally kiss, and when they did, it wasn't some multiple page, majorly detailed kiss. And it worked. Completely. I constantly was all "Kiss! Kiss now!" and of course they didn't. But it didn't feel like it was done that way to drag the reader on--it was intentional, and it felt right. As broken as aspects of their lives and relationship may be, what Eleanor and Park have is just so stinking sweet. I love these two so much, and I just want more of them. I love some of things they said to each other, the way they acted--so darn cute, those two. In fact, I think I got teary eyed on several occasions because I loved this book so much, because it was so good. (There's evidence of a tear in my copy.)

Something that can make or break a book is the writing. Fortunately, Rainbow Rowell's helped make it. While it wasn't perfect (nothing is), I don't remember having many problems, or any major, head-banging, I-can't-take-this issues. Eleanor & Park (I love how their names aren't basic) was well-written, full of great and witty dialogue, with pages that flowed really well. Not only was the writing done well, but it was done right for the story that was told.

I wasn't very far into Eleanor & Park before I decided I was in love with it--it's that good. At one point I thought I was reading it too slowly, and that it was taking forever to finish. Then I realized I was probably unconsciously savoring every single page, every single word. This book isn't all flowerly meadows and fluffy bunny rabbits--it's also got some forest fires and wolves to taint those happy images. But it's still fantastic--it's set in the 80s, for crying out loud! I'm pretty sure this review doesn't adequately portray my thoughts on this book, and I'm probably forgetting something. But I do know the following. If Eleanor & Park doesn't make my Top Ten Best Books of 2013 list (ten books better than this? Is that possible?) I'll be shocked. This book is definitely on my list of favorite contemporaries (alongside Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen, to name a few), and I'll keep my eye on Rainbow Rowell, especially for a sequel. Look out, Anna and Etienne--Eleanor and Park are coming through.

Did I like it? YES.
Did I love it? ABSOLUTELY.
Would I reread it? YES.
Would I purchase it? I wish I had a finished copy on my shelf RIGHT NOW.
Would I recommend it? I want to shove this book in your face and make you read it.


  1. I really enjoyed this book too. I was skeptical after reading a couple of rave reviews-could it really be that good? Well, yes, yes it could and is.

  2. I skipped over the part with spoilers but I loved your review before that point and now I know that I have to read this book! Like have to! Thanks so much for an awesome review and another book that I just have to read!

  3. Reading this now! I'm really enjoying it so far and I love the Anna and the French Kiss comparison because I LOVE that book! Great review! :)

  4. If I hear even just a whisper about a good contemporary book on Twitter that I haven't read, I know that I'm going to read it. ELEANOR & PARK not only had whispers, but full discussions, yells, and exclamations, meaning I not only knew I would read it, but that I would read it SOON.


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