Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell




"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. (from Goodreads)




Eleanor & Park took me by surprise, I was expecting an enjoyable read, and it snuck in and took up residence in my heart and head ~ I just keep thinking about it and how utterly perfect it was.

It's set in 1986 and is the story of Eleanor and Park and how the the school bus, watchman comics, and mix tapes bring them together, after a rather rocky start. I smiled, I sighed, my stomach swooped, I clenched my fists in anxiety, and at one point I even squealed. I fondly remembered the pure magic of receiving and making a mix tapes.

There are so many small moments in this book that are made huge and powerful by the brilliance of Rainbow Rowell's writing. She has a beautifully evocative style that pulls you into the story, so you are right there, falling in love with Eleanor and Park.

I can't remember the last time a love story seemed so incredibly real in a book. Everything is there; the hesitant first moves, the joy of discovering something new, the intense interest, the passion, the misunderstandings, the challenges of loving someone, the all consuming nature of first love. It's told from a duel perpective and I loved seeing Eleanor and Park's reactions to the same event. The real beauty of the story though, is that Rainbow Rowell shows how falling in love with someone, and having them love you back, ignites you. In finding each other Eleanor and Park find themselves, and the courage to be that self.

During the novel Park tells Eleanor she isn't sweet, she isn't, and this is not a sweet love story. It's a real one, set in the real world, where bad things happen. About two thirds of the way through I knew something horrible was going to happen, and I actually had to put the book down and take a break because I was worried on behalf of characters I loved. Eleanor & Park is a portrayal of love and life, with all the light and dark that goes with it, so even though I know I am focusing on the love aspect there is a lot more to this book.

It's also a story about family, friendship, the binds of community and belonging. I loved the portrayal of family, especially Park's family, and how you can feel like an outsider, even among people you have blood ties with. Anyone who has ever felt like they don't fit in will recognise and relate to something in this novel.

Rainbow Rowell is hugely talented and is now on my must buy list. I hope you'll pick up Eleanor & Park and love it as much as I did.

Eleanor and Park is available NOW in the UK, Australia and New Zealand

It releases 5th March 2013 in the USA. The USA copy is blurbed by Gayle Foreman (If I stay, Where She Went) who says, "This sexy, smart, tender romance thrums with punk music and true love. Readers will love Eleanor and Park."

I didn't really mention the music, except the mix tapes, but yes, music is a huge part of this book and it's really, really good. As are the comic book references. I actually want to read a comic book now :)

Rainbow Rowell's website is here

Other reviews YA Highway Book Review Eleanor & Park