Review – Eleanor and Park
1
  • Posted:
  • January 13, 2014

eleanor and parl

Eleanor and Park is one of those books that grew into something monumental around me. Rainbow Rowell’s 2013 Young Adult debut has been making the rounds in the blogosphere for a year. It topped many of the favourite list of 2013 and earned a place in the hearts of many readers. This week I finally read it and I can safely say that it has also earned a spot in my favored books for 2014. It’s fantastic.

Eleanor Douglas is newly returned to a neighbourhood in Omaha Nebraska, the Flats. For a year she lived away from her mother, kicked out by her stepfather, Ritchie. Now, living in Ritchie’s home, she is trying to survive a life of hardship and abuse at his hands. Eleanor and her four siblings live relatively unscathed from his vitriolic temper and his fists, but Eleanor’s mother, Sabrina, doesn’t fare so well.

The first day of school Eleanor sits with Park Sheridan, a half-Korean sophomore. Park throws himself on a social minefield inviting Eleanor to sit with him – she’s curvier than other girls, she dresses weird, and she’s the new girl with unfortunate wild red hair. She becomes a target for the scorn of bullies instantaneously. Park is one of the pack though. He lives in a nicer home in the Flats and has always lived there. He’s inside more than Eleanor is. The two bond first over shared comic books on the bus and then music, though Park’s taste for harder punk rock is not to Eleanor’s liking.

Eleanor and Park is a beautiful book, a rollicking up-and-down rage of emotions. At one moment the book is sweet and toe-curling, the next it’s heart-wrenching and hard to look away from. I put the book down several times, remembering the darker parts of my childhood and feeling suddenly like a terrified six-year-old. But the sweet parts, the best parts, are the moments when you press the book to your chest and sigh with delight. The best parts are Eleanor and Park finding one another and really seeing themselves through the other’s eyes.

Park and Eleanor have a magnificent chemistry, perfect ends of the spectrum that compliment each other. Eleanor is pessimistic, beaten down by life and jaded at a young age. Park has had more opportunity and support, finding social acceptance early when he dated a popular girl at school. Park’s difficulty is more subtle; a creeping skin-deep issue of race and always being on the outside. Park has no one like him in Omaha, no role models and little understanding of his point of view. Eleanor is the only one of her kind too. Naturally the two bond and when they fall in love it’s magic.

This book is a treat, a hard and soft look at life through broken rose-coloured glasses. I loved it. I can’t say that enough. What an incredible book.

5 out of 5 stars.

– BP

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1 Comments

Mary H

2014-01-14 06:21:25 Reply

Great review, Krys! Like you, I loved that dichotomy of sweet and yes, toe-curling shoved next to those absolutely heartbreaking moments that peppered the novel. I like that it’s hopeful though. It left me with the sense that things would be okay.