“Eleanor & Park,” by Rainbow Rowell, was another book that was not originally on my 2019 TBR list. In cleaning out my childhood home last week, I came across my sister’s small stack of library donations and recognized the title and whimsical illustrations. I have long seen the below quote sprinkled across my Tumbler, Pinterest, and other social media sites, so without hesitation, I picked up the hardcover copy and claimed it as my own, hoping to find some more gems within its pages.
“She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; It was supposed to make you feel something.” -Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
The story takes place in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska on Eleanor’s first day of high school. It’s the middle of the year and as she gets on her bus, Eleanor is greeted with a full assembly of stares and snickers. Begrudgingly, Park makes room for her in his row and faces the window for the entirety of their commute. But the seating assignment sticks and Park’s curiosity piques as days continue, side by side on a worn vinyl bench and inside the walls of the same advanced classes. Few words are exchanged, but both begin to note their unique qualities and settle on common ground.
Eleanor carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and is wildly misunderstood. In a small, rundown home with two bedrooms and no bathroom door, she cares for her four siblings and protects her anxious mother from her drunk, abusive stepfather, Richie. The family has little money, and funds are never spent on proper clothing, necessities such as toothbrushes and soap, and leisurely toys and games. She therefore is repeatedly bullied for her disheveled appearance and eclectic wardrobe.
Park comes from a loving home, yet still feels quite inadequate. His shorter, slender build resembles his mother and he doesn’t think he will ever meet his father’s standards, a tall “masculine” man with a love for taekwondo and stick-shift cars. Park escapes his reality with the help of alternative music and comic books.
Park realizes that Eleanor is smart, witty, and beautiful in her own way; Curvy with bright, curly red hair and a unique sense of style. Eleanor appreciates Park’s kindness and willingness to share his world of music and his comic book collection, both luxuries too fancy for her own humble home. She values his warmth and gentle upbringing, he admires her unwavering strength and unapologetic independence. Attraction morphs into adoration, followed by that four-letter word.
Throughout the novel, the two exercise a beautiful exchange, a tender push and pull associated with young love. Eleanor and Park display a strong desire to ensure their permanence while understanding the realities that come first time, fleeting relationships. I liked that there was believable depth to their story- The main characters uncovered, clung to optimistic dreams while surrounded by otherwise unfortunate situations. Their shared hope helped them survive.
FINAL SCORE: 3.4 The book was simple. Sweet. And it didn’t need to be anything more than that.
BEST FOR: Easy readers. Lovers of Young Adult fiction.
NOT GOOD FOR: Sophisticated literary palettes.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: “Best Couple” in the Yearbook
**Want to see what I’m reading next? Find me on GoodReads and join the 2019 challenge with me! https://www.goodreads.com/addingpunctuation**