Eleanor and Park

by Rainbow Rowell

"He knows I'll like a song before I've heard it. He laughs before I even get to the punch line. There's only one of him."

Rewind to high school in 1986.  Mixed taped and comic books are the important things in life.  At least they are to Park.  Half-Korean, and small in stature, Park tries to lie low on his bus to avoid being bullied, on his way to and from school.  He has a seat to himself and likes it that way.  One day, an eclectically dressed, new girl with curly red hair is forced to sit beside Park.  Eleanor sits down next to Park, and changes his life forever.  

This teenage romance is much more complicated than it seems.  Park and Eleanor are so unlikely.  They don't talk at first; they simply share Park's comic books and avoid the obnoxious popular kids on the bus.  The reader is treated to perspective switches every few pages or paragraphs, so we are able to read what is going on in both Park and Eleanor's minds. Park struggles with making his father proud, learning to drive standard, taking on Eleanor's tormentors, and trying to focus on what Eleanor is saying instead of just looking at her beautiful mouth.  Eleanor struggles with keeping her guard up around Park, and wanting to tell him about her family situation and abusive stepfather. Although they both know that their all-consuming first-love can't last forever, they try courageously to make it last. 

I loved Park - he's a comic book loving, mixed tape making, sweetheart, who stands up for his girlfriend to everyone who's always picked on him.  And I loved Eleanor too - she's got a love for strange outfits, and doesn't seem to fit in anywhere.  She valiantly tries to protect all of her younger siblings, and herself, while falling in love with Park and his family. 

Although this is technically a YA novel, I think that it deals with themes that can be appreciated by older audiences.  I laughed and cried with Park and Eleanor when I read this. Their story is familiar, yet complicated.  It's fresh and new.  I recommend this read to those of you who can remember high school, the 1980s, or that giddy feeling of falling in love.  

♥ Meg xoxo

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