Rating: 4.5/5 stars.
I felt like I found the fountain of youth with Eleanor & Park, but at the same time, it made me feel so darn old. Here’s a monologue of my thoughts while reading pages 70-71 (which can be shifted around just a little bit to apply to the rest of the book):
Me: Oh my gosh, Park feels bad for Eleanor, that’s so sweet.
Me: Aw, Eleanor doesn’t want to talk to Park about her abusive stepfather. That’s so sweet.
Me: Park is holding Eleanor’s scarf and she doesn’t want him to look up because he would see her feelings for him. So, so sweet.
Me: OH MY GOODNESS HE SLID HIS FINGERS INTO HER OPEN PALM THEY’RE HOLDING HANDS THAT’S SO ROMANTIC SOMEONE GIVE ME CPR. *proceeds to fanboy for the rest of time*
Rainbow Rowell captures the essence of adolescence with such skill. The book revolves around the relationship between Eleanor, a big girl with an even bigger personality, and Park, the one Asian kid in his entire high school. Both characters experience the awkwardness of trying to talk to strangers, the difficulties of fitting in, and the feeling of flight that comes with first love. They build the foundation of their relationship on a shared love of music and comic books, but it becomes so much more. Even though I’m only two years older than them, I caught myself thinking oh my gosh, I remember when I felt like that in high school or ugh, this brings back all those teenaged memories. Perhaps that speaks positively for Rowell’s portrayal of Eleanor and Park – here’s a small quote from Eleanor’s POV that stuck out to me.
She would never belong in Park’s living room. She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else.
Park has to handle his dad’s high expectations of him, while Eleanor deals with annoying, gossipy girls and her dangerous stepfather. These issues elevate their romance to another level, and though others may have wanted more time devoted to different elements as opposed to the romance, I think Rowell stuck to her strength in focusing mainly on Eleanor and Park. The ending provided enough angst to break my heart but just enough hope to patch it right up.
Highly recommended for fans of young-adult contemporary romance, or anyone searching for a story that will bring back their teenage years. If Eleanor and Park is any indication, YA novels will help me maintain my youth… hopefully…