Eleanor & Park is a young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. The book was published by Orion on 12th April 2012 and the book is 336 pages long.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.
Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixed tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
What I thought
I had not heard anything about this book before reading it so I knew absolutely nothing about it. All I knew was that it was a contemporary novel and I’m really into that genre of young adult at the minute.
Eleanor & Park is set in 1986, the year I was born. The story follows Eleanor who is nothing like the other girls who go to her school. She has the brightest red hair, is not super skinny and she also dresses more like a man than a girl. Having only recently moved to the area, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Her stepdad is an abusive asshole and her family struggle just to get by every day. I have no idea how to express how much I loved Eleanor as a character. She was so different and out there but also quite comfortable in her own skin at the same time. She knows that she isn’t like other girls and never seems to let the nasty comments bother her.
Then there is Park. Park who makes me sigh out loud. Something absolutely refreshing about Park was that he is half Korean. It isn’t often we see characters of mixed cultures in young adult books so this was something I was really glad to see. It also gives him and his family a superb personality. In Eleanor’s world of torment and teasing, Park is her saviour on the school bus. When no one else will let her sit down, Park begrudgingly moves over and lets her sit next to him – a seat which becomes permanently hers from this moment on. Park and Eleanor don’t talk though, they only sit and ignore each other. That is until Park realises that Eleanor is reading his comic books while he does on the sly which is what eventually sparks up their friendship.
Eleanor & Park is a story about unlikely friendships and first loves. Eleanor and Park are two characters forced together by unfortunate circumstances. The novel is told through a dual narrative from both characters. However, it doesn’t always happen in full chapters, but instead, sometimes we only get a couple of lines from each of them. This way of telling the story made is possible to be fully invested in Eleanor and Park, to completely feel everything that they were feeling and also to understand what they were going through.
This isn’t just a love story though. Rowell’s writing is intensely raw and tackles so really tough issues. The issues that Rowell address, however hard and distressing they may be, help to mould the characters that she has created. The issues show the differences between Eleanor and Park but they also show how people from different backgrounds can come together and make things better between them. For me, everything about this book was perfection. I could not get enough of this story and the characters and I was utterly heartbroken when it was over.
Eleanor & Park is now one of my all-time favourite YA novels.