Saturday, February 9, 2013

Books You Should Read: ELEANOR & PARK By Rainbow Rowell

"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.

 Why You Should Read It:

This is an example of what I like to call YA perfection. 

Both Eleanor and Park narrate the story. Their voices are a master class on how one should deepen characterization. Eleanor (my personal fave of the two) struggles not only with coping with a difficult situation at home, but also with self-acceptance. Her weight is cause for plenty of insecurities. She doesn't think she's worthy of many things, including Park's affection. Some readers might find her voice to be on the nagging side, but not me. I understand how someone in her shoes would react the way she reacts to things/people/ideas. I understand how fear and pain shape the way she sees the world. But what I understand most of all is how Eleanor is someone who doubts, doubts, doubts, and later on fights for a better life. It's this fight that makes her even more human than her other character traits to me. It's this fight that forces Eleanor to start off as a passive observer in her own life, then grows into an active force for change. 

Then there's Park. Oh, Park. He's got an awesome name. He's of Asian descent, so he stands out in his predominantly white neighborhood. He loves comic books (X-Men!). His taste in music rules (Joy Division!). And he pissed me off in the beginning chapters. Why? Well, like Eleanor, Park is very much human. He has insecurities, too. When he first meets Eleanor on the school bus, he doesn't want an overweight redhead who dresses in men's clothes to sit next to him. If she does, he'll get teased. Eleanor sits next to him. It's not pretty, folks. It is tense and awkward and OMG did I mention awkward? But what could've turned into a hellish experience for the two of them turns into an unconventional friendship, sparked by Eleanor's interest in the comics Park loves. Their friendship later turns into one of the sweetest, most turbulent romances I've read in YA fiction.

Let me end this gushfest by sharing a little snippet from the book. This is Park's POV:

Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

I couldn't agree more. Eleanor & Park might be messy and not very pleasant to read at times, but it never stopped making me feel. The ending will stay with me for a long, long time. 

Make sure you get your copy when Eleanor & Park hits bookshelves on February 26th!


  1. Oh, gosh, I've been waiting for this book for FOREVER. You lucky duck, you. And I'm so glad to hear that you like it, because that means three strikes in the book's favor (two other really good reviewers have given it the go-ahead).

  2. Wow, it is rare to have a YA romantic lead who is overweight, and even more rare for it to be handled nicely. I love the quote about art. "Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something." Absolutely perfect. Definitely adding this to my list. Thanks, Amparo!

  3. Oooo, need to read. Thanks for the suggestion. That passage is beyond cool. (Can I please write like that, writing gods?)

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