and Park aren't the typical stars of a teen romance. Eleanor is
overweight and wears weird clothes. Park is the only Asian kid in his
school, and he loves comic books and punk rock. But Rainbow Rowell
puts them front and center in Eleanor and Park, her first YA
novel, and she has done so beautifully.
Eleanor and Park wind up sharing a seat on the school bus, they form
a connection through the comic books she reads over his shoulder.
Rather than spending the novel building up tension to the moment when
the two confess their feelings for each other, the novel centers on
their struggle to make their relationship work.
comes from an abusive home, and she comes into the relationship with
a lot of emotional baggage, as well as a very real threat of abuse
from her stepfather if he were to find out about their relationship.
The big question of the novel isn't if they love each other, but if
the reality of their lives will be too strong for them to fight
the heavy themes, there is plenty to swoon over. This book has my
favorite hand-holding scene ever in YA literature, merging Park's
very poetic response (“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding
a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and
completely alive”) with Eleanor's adorably geeky, “Eleanor
Disintegrated. Like something had gone wrong beaming her onto the
Starship Enterprise … Maybe Park had paralyzed her with
his ninja magic, his Vulcan handhold, and now he was going to eat
her. That would be awesome.” Rowell captures the giddy,
butterfly-in-the-stomach feelings of first love in a charming and
favorite aspect of this story was Park's parents. They aren't
perfect. His mother initially thinks Eleanor is too weird for her
son, and even tries to make her over into something she's not. His
father gets frustrated with Park's lack of interest in “manly”
things. But they apologize. They do better. They love their son and
are there for him when he needs them. And, most importantly, they
love each other.
a poverty-heavy neighborhood full of broken homes and apathy, Park
even credits the goodness and hope in his life to his parents' love
for each other. Their example teaches Park that true love can build
something beautiful, and it is worth fighting for.
lives in an abusive family, and the language of an abusive home is
part of her world and part of the voice in her head (a fact that
frustrates her). This book is full of profanity and sexual slurs. It
is viewed as ugly and cruel, not glamorous and cool, but it is
pervasive. Eleanor and Park are also not Mormon teens, and although
they don't have sex, they do things that aren't approved in the FSOY
pamphlet. Some minor characters are also seen drinking alcohol.
this grit, this romance is adorable. I'm not a sentimental kind of
girl. Most romances really annoy me because the factors keeping the
main characters apart seem so arbitrary. Not so in Eleanor and
Park. They face abusive home life, cultural differences, and
bullying. I loved watching them expand and improve as they did so.
Read this book if...
want affirmation that even though you may not be prom queen
material, your story still matters, and you are worthy of love and
need a break from depressing totalitarian regimes, but need a little
more depth than The Clique books can give you.
love swooning, Mr. Darcy, and Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the
Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she
used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find
good books for her family at her local public library. During women's history month, she profiles
Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com. She loves reading, sleeping,
and the great outdoors.
Erin serves as Primary pianist and as the choir director in her ward.