Monday, 21 January 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Released: April 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Orion (UK)
Source: Secret Santa Gift
Reason for reading: It sounded super cute and I got it as a gift
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads description:

"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 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.

My thoughts: 

Eleanor & Park was one of the most poignant books I've read for a while, it really affected me while I was reading it; I really felt for the characters and their situations.  I was expecting this book to be much cuter and lighter than it was, so whilst it was a surprise it was by no means a disappointment. 

The story centres of course around the two characters Eleanor and Park, who meet when Park has to share his seat on the bus with Eleanor, the fashionably-challenged new girl at school. I really liked Park, I totally got his reasoning for wanting to stay out of the line of fire when it came to the popular kids. He wasn't popular, he wasn't unpopular and he wasn't a target. He wanted to stay that way and you could totally get that. And you could see how he thought that being friends with the weird new girl would rock the boat too much. He does struggle between what he wants and what he thinks he should want, should do. When it came to Eleanor it was him doing most of the chasing; it was him who expressed his feelings first and most frequently, him who initiated and maintained contact initially and it was so sweet. 

I really liked Eleanor; yeah she was prickly and defensive at times, she didn't give much away, but there's a reason for that, her home life. Eleanor had one of the saddest stories I've read about for a while and it just really struck a chord with me. I wanted her to end up happy and with the sort of life she deserved more than anything. I wanted to like, buy her some nice clothes and some comics and some batteries for her walkman. I wanted to take her away from her life; anything to make her happy.  I really liked how jaded and realistic she was when it came to her and Park's relationship it was an interesting development and it lined up with the sort of life she'd had so far and how her expectations and opinions had been affected by what had happened to her. 

Park was such a cool character, a big fan of comics and music, he was worried about being too effeminate because he wasn't all manly and he didn't like sports and he actually liked wearing eyeliner. He wasn't the sort of son his Marine father could associate with. I liked how it was him who made the first step with Eleanor, pretty much all the steps really, and how he was so in touch with his feelings and so idealistic and so sure of what he wanted. He did struggle with the concept of Eleanor at first. He liked her but he was scared of her not being accepted by people at school and his family and it was so sad to see that struggle, to see him fight to overcome his preconceptions.

The word for this book is definitely bittersweet. Everything about it was so cute but so desperately sad at the same time. There was the initial excitement of the start of their relationship; that bit where you're in tune with each other and yet so aware at the same time, of yourself of the other person, of the space between you. The evolution of their relationship was just so perfect, so sweet yet so riddled with the sort of issues it would be riddled with.

The ending, wow. It happened pretty quick, but it had to really. I loved the uncertainty of it and the desperation of both Eleanor&Park, for various reasons. It was a very open ending, but I like to think we got enough clues from it and throughout the book to deduce what happened.

TL;DR: Eleanor&Park is a bittersweet tale, riddled with difficulties and obstacles but portraying a beautifully desperate sort of love. I highly recommend it. 


  1. I'm glad to see you liked this one because when I read the description I thought it sounded like something I'd really like, but I haven't seen any reviews of it before this! Great review!

    Chloe @ YA Booklover Blog

  2. I haven't heard of this one but it definitely sounds like one I want to get my hands on.

  3. I was kinda of expecting cute from this one too, so I'm very interested to hear that it's not really. I have a copy of this one and have been meaning to get to it for ages. I must bump it up my list!

  4. Bittersweet is a really good word for this. It was so much... realler? than I was expecting. And I thought Rowell did such a good job exploring the impact that domestic abuse has on the whole family.

  5. This definitely does sound cute but I don't know how I feel about it being bittersweet (and open ended) as well...I think it's the type of book you've got to be in the mood for to enjoy. Glad you enjoyed it though! Great review :).

  6. Not available in the U.S. until next month, but I'll be on the lookout for it then. Thanks!


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