Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

“You look like you,” he said. “You with the volume turned up.”

This spectacular book surprised me in many ways.

First of all, that first line (“XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.”) grabbed me by the collar and pulled me in. I knew that the story was set in 1986 and that a friendship would be formed through music and comic books. I expected bouts of nostalgia and plenty of geeky references but I didn’t know how affected I would be and how much crying had to be done. I devoured this book like cake but there were moments when I had to pause and come up for air. It was pretty intense and as Kubi would say, it caused many an uglycryface.

Eleanor and Park

There is nothing extraordinary about these two characters. They are two teenagers who have often felt like they are on the outside looking in and they are just trying to find their place in the world. Nothing extraordinary happens either. They are just going about their daily lives, doing everyday things. But what is extraordinary about this book is how genuine these characters are and how much the book captured the awkwardness and the ache of falling and being in love. There were no profound mumbles or impeccable blahs. It was a genius move to write it in the third person and to use alternating perspectives between Eleanor and Park because it allowed the reader to really know what they were thinking and feeling at that exact moment. There is no restraint in terms of expressing their thoughts or emotions and it makes them genuine and relatable. It was so intense and intimate that reading it made me feel like a thief because it felt like I was robbing them of their privacy.

The book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written. Rainbow Rowell’s sentences and descriptions are delectable. For Eleanor, Park’s trench coat “smelled like Irish Spring and a little bit like potpourri and like something she couldn’t describe anyway other than boy.” For Park, Eleanor “looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

I loved John Green’s review of the book wherein he said that “the obstacle in ‘Eleanor & Park’ is simply the world. The world cannot stomach a relationship between a good-looking Korean kid and Big Red. The world cannot allow Eleanor a boyfriend of any kind, because she’s poor and fat and dresses funny. The world cannot allow Park a girlfriend because he likes wearing eyeliner, and everyone knows that’s gay. The world is the obstacle, as it always is when you’re 16 and truly in love.”

This book made me grateful to be young and in love and to be living in a world where beautiful stories such as this one exists.


Then come back here and let’s talk about it.

This was a post by Hanna, who is thinking about ice cream, as always.

Photo by: Paper Pie

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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