Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 26 February, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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Oh God, how I loved this story! Definitely one of the best books I've read this year. After the string of utterly boring, unabsorbing books that I've been reading lately, this was like food for a starving soul. Really. Not exaggerating there."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.
Eleanor and Park first meet on the bus, on the way to school. Okay, one thing you should know is that people at their school are generally mean. When Park, somewhat grudgingly, shares his seat with her, he knows he'll almost certainly get flak for it, so he maintains a stony silence and doesn't even look her way. In fact, not a word is exchanged between the two until page 41 (yes, I noted it)! But slowly, he breaks through her fences - wait, does she break down his fences? - okay, basically, it's a mutual breaking through of fences, which is the best part! At first, they bond over their shared love for comics and music. It was so funny how Eleanor would read Park's comics out of the corner of her eye, without moving her head. You know we've all done that :) But their relationship still faces several challenges. Park's embarrassment of Eleanor (sometimes), Park's mother's dislike for Eleanor, Eleanor's own self-doubt, Eleanor's family and step father... you get the idea. Whether/how they come through these is what the story is all about. There's also a side plot - obscene notes turn up on Eleanor's notebooks, sparking Park's anger at the insult.
Eleanor and Park are not the perfect girl and boy you see in the typical book nowadays.
Eleanor's chubby, her hair's always a mess, she dresses weird (random ribbons tied/stuck onto clothes, ties are hair ties... you get the picture), she's rude, she hates Romeo & Juliet, and she's not friendly. But in spite of all that, Park sees though to the girl who just wants people to like her for who she is, who feels insecure about her body, who doesn't feel safe in her own house, who counts her small blessings, who's just a softie under all that bark. She's so so strong, I am in awe of her. She puts up a brave front inspite of the many trials she faces (Eg: she lives in a house in which the only bathroom is in the kitchen, and does not have a door!) How many of us wouldn't break under all that pressure?
Usually, if one of the main characters isn't 'perfect', the other one almost always is. But not so in this one. At first, Park is so against Eleanor that he doesn't even look at her, except for swearing at her once at the very beginning. He softens a bit after he notices that she reads the comics with him (he turns the pages only after he's sure she's finished, and starts off where they've left *aww*, but still he wont talk to her), but it's in English class that he begins to notice her (Yay for English classes!). They become tentative friends, & he starts bringing her books to take home everyday, and introduces her to music; I called them the 'early morning gifts'. Park's home is drastically different from Eleanor's and that just drives home the differences deeper.
The secondary characters are very likable (Park's family) and sometimes annoying (Eleanor's). I loved Park's parents right from the start. There's a little conflict there, between Park and his parents, but it's very realistic, true to the objections any parent will have.
Bottomline: Eleanor & Park is one great book that just makes you want to hug it's characters. An unpretentious book that doesn't fail to impress. One of the best this year!