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Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell [ARC]

Thursday, December 06, 2012 § 4 Comments

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release date: February 26, 2013 (North American release)
ISBN-10: 1250012570
ISBN-13: 9781250012579
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
"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.

My Review:
Eleanor & Park is the story of adolescence and first love. It takes place in the 1980s in the Midwestern United States; Omaha, to be exact. Eleanor is the new girl at school. She's described as being slightly overweight with wild red hair and dresses in ill-fitting clothes. She's a target for your typical high school bullies, and unfortunately her home life isn't any better. Park is well-liked at school and has a loving family, but he still stands out from everyone else. He's half-Korean in a neighbourhood full of white kids, his younger brother looks way older than him, and he'd rather read comic books than play sports. Both are misfits in different ways, and after begrudgingly encountering each other one day on the bus ride to school, they find themselves drifting closer and closer together.

As the title suggests, the book focused on Eleanor and Park's relationship, all the way from the ground up. It started with Eleanor getting on the school bus and being forced to pick a seat, only to discover that everyone already had some pre-arranged seating plan. One kid, Park, speaks up (unwillingly and rather rudely) and lets her take the seat next to him. They didn't interact initially -- in fact, they developed preconceived notions about each other that made them speak pretty foully about one another. But after a while, they started discovering common interests, taught each other a thing or two along the way (which was done beautifully, by the way, through wordless interactions) and found themselves enjoying each other's company. By the middle of the book, they were clearly past sneaky glances and silently sharing comic books. It moved a tad fast for me at this point (there's a line where Eleanor stated that he made her want to have his babies and give him both of her kidneys. Woah. And they were only setting up a phone date!), but that aside, the build-up prior to that was near perfection. They fell in love, though Eleanor kept her guard up for most of the book, not wanting this part of her life destroyed by her situation at home. Eleanor lacked self-confidence, but Park always made her feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, even though everyone around them didn't quite understand why they picked each other.

They weren't only great together, but they were likeable as individual characters as well. I feel like this is such a plus when it comes to romances. It pains me when I love two people together, but not apart; that just emphasizes their dependency on each other. I loved Eleanor. She was snarky and hi-laaarious, and she liked the Beatles, so obviously she had great taste in music. Park, on the other hand, didn't know much about the Beatles. Which was a shame, but he made up for it with his adorable love for comic books and nerd references. They were completely different from each other, from their looks and personalities to their families. Eleanor's family was broken and impoverished while Park's was whole and very involved in his life (he even lived next to his grandparents). Their contrasting lives eventually weaved together and ended the story on a very heart-wrenching, very high note.

Rowell is an amazing writer. She ended off paragraphs with quotes and lines that had me clutching my chest and aww-ing more than once. There were parts that made me laugh and parts that made me cry. It was a whole range of emotions for me while reading. The book was written in both Eleanor and Park's perspectives, where Rowell would switch between the two. Thankfully it was written in third person narrative and not first, otherwise it would have been pretty confusing. The switching perspectives worked because it gives readers an inside look at both of their lives away from each other. Their familial situations were so different, and I felt horrible for Eleanor especially. Rowell didn't hold back on tackling the serious issues when it came to Eleanor's home life. It was utterly heartbreaking to read, but it made the story as a whole more real. It wasn't just a romance perfectly packaged and tied up in a pretty bow.

Ah, the pre-90's references. Loved them. I was born at the tail-end of the 80's, so a lot of the pop culture references were still pretty fresh; that, and my parents totally brought me up on all of it so I wasn't lost along the way. The references that Rowell used were the ones that stood out in the 80s; the timeless ones that won't be forgotten even 20 years later. I also think it's safe to say that we live in a time where the younger generation can actually appreciate a more older sound in music. I was at a bookstore one day and an older gentleman was talking to the cashier about how he and his 20-something year old son bonded over Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. I'm the same with my parents and know a lot of people who are also, so for me, this book wasn't dated at all. In fact, it seems like the perfect time to release this book.

Also, how perfect is this cover? It's the perfect representation for this story; simple but attractive, quirky, innocent, and depicts the connection that Eleanor and Park have with each other, away from the prying eyes of those around them. The incorporation of music in the cover also adds to the overall effect, as music plays quite a big part in the two character's relationship. This US edition will be released by St. Martin's Press on February 26, 2013. I'm happy to admit that this has been one of my favourite YA reads for 2012.

I also have to point out that Rowell has a book coming out in late 2013 called "Fangirl". About a girl who would rather live in other people' stories instead of her own. Are you kidding me? Sign me up.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with the ARC.

My rating:

Visit the author:
Official website | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy this book:
IndieBound.org | Amazon.com | Indigo.ca

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§ 4 Response to “Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell [ARC]”

  • Isa says:

    Ever since I saw the cover I knew I had to read this book and your review only solidifies that want. The characters sound great and their relationship is adorable, I'm so excited to read it! I am fangirling before I even have my hands on the book. :P Fantastic review!

  • hehehe..i live in Omaha..LOL

  • Renae says:

    Interesting! I've noticed that it's become a pretty common theme to incorporate music into books. A sub-culture, per se. I also really like the idea of a book that takes place in a past not so distant as to be considered "historical fiction".

  • Ruty B. says:

    I've heard great things about this book and your review make it sounds amazing.
    I love the idea of so many references to the 80s and 90s.
    Great review

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