- Release Date: February 26th , 2013
- Genre: Contemporary
- Pages: 325
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (Macmillan)
Synopsis: 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
I was first made aware of this novel by the words of John Green’s glowing review in The New York Times; and now it seem this book is the talk of YA fans. Just Google the title and you will see pages of fanart and reviews.
Eleanor and Park is a romance set to the backdrop of a working class town in Nebraska during the mid-80’s. The novel explores our titular protagonists blossoming romance while dealing with themes of poverty, self-image and marginalization.
Eleanor is bullied, overweight and doesn’t fit the traditional standards of beauty. She lives in a tiny house that doesn’t even have a door on the bathroom. She is packed in tight with her large family including a stepdad who terrifies her. Park is self-conscious, unsure and kind of an outsider. While he has a group of friends, being the only half-Asian in his school still puts him on the outside.
Filled with 80’s music, comic books and pop culture we get an intimate look as Eleanor and Park experience love for the first time.
I tried not to let the hype for this book into my reading experience, but overall I really enjoyed reading this . It made me nostalgic about the older YAs I read in high school like Don’t You Dare Read This Ms. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix or Crazy Horse Electric by Chris Crutcher. There isn’t this sheen of beauty and fantasy to the character’s lives
At it’s heart, this novel is a romance, but it’s a slow burning romance. We see the entire spectrum of their relationship, it is a close and intimate perspective. Eleanor is exploring love and relationships for the first time and she explains how Park’s Vulcan hand hold “paralyzed her with his ninja magic” and how “The world rebuilt itself into a better place around him.”
I don’t think many YA writers are writing the kind of characters Rowell is. They are consistently imperfect, awkward, hopeless and don’t have a picture perfect ending. And while we may see this a lot in our female characters it isn’t very common in male characters.
I’ve seen some criticisms about how Rowell doesn’t really explore the amount of racism Park may have experienced during that time period because his dad married a Korean woman he met while in the Korean War. I do wish Rowell had sort of expanded on Park’s relationship to his mother. His mom abandoned her family and cultural identity to become his father’s wife and I think it would have been interesting to see how Park relates to this.
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to read a heartfelt YA romance that will stay with you long after the first page. I have two theory’s on the ending of this novel and I just love a novel that keeps you thinking like that.
I am very excited to read Rowell’s upcoming novel Fangirl and maybe even her adult novel Attachments.
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.