Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

  Summary (Amazon): Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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 (Spoilers!!)

Executive Summary: satisfying

This is our book-into-movie book for the year, but unfortunately, the movie won’t be coming out until next year, so no review on it anytime soon. I am curious how they will make a movie about it.

I liked the book, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t a lot to it. Eleanor is the new-kid-in-town after she spent the previous year kicked out of home from her family (mom, stepdad, younger siblings). Her stepdad is emotionally and physically abusive and kicked her out. For unclear reasons, she was allowed to return although she obviously doesn’t like being there because of her stepdad. On top of that, her family is very poor and all share a bedroom with very little to eat and no extravagances.

She gets onto the bus and has nowhere to sit as the hierarchy and politics of a school bus are similar to that of a small corrupt nation. As she is walking back the aisle, she’s getting the dreaded brush off from everyone until she finally gets to Park who scoots over to let her sit. He doesn’t know why he does it. Eleanor is big with wild red hair and dresses strangely so he knows that it is a social misstep to allow this, but for some reason he does it anyway. Park has a Korean mother and a white (Irish) military father. His parents are middle class, although it is socially difficult for him to be the only non-white person at his school in Nebraska. He has worked hard for what little social status he has, but for whatever reason, he still lets her sit with him.

Park continues to let Eleanor sit with him on the bus, and he eventually notices her reading his comics with him so he loans some to her. It progresses a little further and he starts loaning her mix tapes (and the tape player) to go along with them to listen to.  And then they realize that they are in love so the story progresses into a full fledged awkwardness of trying to hang out outside of school and lying to parents and drivers’ tests. The awkwardness is of course exacerbated mostly by Eleanor who looks differently and therefore gets picked on. Someone is writing lewd notes on her textbooks, and she also has an incident of someone flushing her clothes in the toilet at gym class. She’s nicknamed Big Red which is obviously embarrassing. She also doesn’t have a telephone and isn’t allowed really to ever leave her house but she gets around it by saying she’s at her friend’s house.

Eleanor eventually comes home too late to find that her stepdad has figured out what has been going on. He found the stash of make up, comics, and other things that she has gotten from Park and his family, and is in a drunken rage. Eleanor slips out of the window because she is sure he will kill her. Her mom previously had told her that her uncle would like her to come to stay with him for the summer, but she had told him no because she wanted to spend time with Park. But she realizes that her only option is her family in Minneapolis. Park talks to his parents and they allow him to drive her to Minneapolis. When they arrive, she doesn’t want him to stay with her, not even until they know whether her family will accept her, so he turns around and drives back to Nebraska. Her family does allow her to stay, but Park doesn’t know this. She doesn’t call. She doesn’t answer his many letters. Until it’s almost too late. She sends Park a postcard with 3 little words…

Verdict: 3.5 stars

Honestly writing this blog definitely puts some books into perspective for me. When I finished this book, I liked it. I had had a feeling throughout the entire story that something bad was going to happen to Eleanor (a la Allegiant), but in the end, everything turned out OK. I did feel like the book was missing a LOT of the 80s feel, and maybe that was intentional. (I guess only in the 80s or earlier would parents have allowed their newly licensed 16 year old kid to drive out of state alone in a manual transmission vehicle.) Anyway, but as I continued to piece together my thoughts for writing up the synopsis, I realized that I wanted the book to stretch a little deeper. Unfortunately I never felt the love story was very realistic, and I was actually a little disappointed with the ending (yes, I said I liked the ending but I just didn’t want Eleanor to die). I felt that having them both move on would be a little more realistic and add a bit of depth to the story. Maybe that’s just me.


Filed under 3.5 stars, Book Club, Book Review

2 responses to “Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

  1. Oh good, I still have time to read this before the movie. I tried it via the library once, but the initial onslaught of f-bombs for a YA book really took me aback. I’ll have to try again though, sounds like it may be worth it. Thanks for the review!

    • I haven’t actually seen official dates for the movie so it may be quite a while. I actually thought that in some ways, this book was not very adult but in others it definitely was. Eleanor’s family life in particular was a bit more serious than most YA books get into, but unfortunately that is the reality for a lot of young people. 😦 Thanks for reading!

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