Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, 325 pg., pub. 2013
Rating: 5/5 stars
I know my rating above says 5 stars, but Eleanor & Park deserves way more than that. It deserves an entire sky full of stars, because it is an amazing gem of a novel.
This beautifully written book is the best kind of love story – the type where the characters don’t know they’re falling in love until they already have. Eleanor is entirely unconventional. She has giant, curly, bright red hair and dresses like a middle-aged man even though she’s 16. Park is obsessed with music and comes from a warm, loving, and entirely normal family. What starts as Park grudgingly letting Eleanor share his seat on her first day at his school (mostly because he’s embarrassed for her when no one else will let her sit with them) slowly turns into a fragile kind of friendship which blossoms into an even more fragile kind of love. Faced with a number of circumstances that seem destined to tear them apart, they are constantly trying to answer one question: what does love mean, and how far will they go to protect it?
I fell in love with this book within the first few pages. The characters are flawed and real and honest and true and every other good thing that turns a character into a real person. Because Eleanor and Park feel real. Eleanor comes from a pretty broken family, and her struggles to be a normal teenager pull at your heart. Park is adorable and so kind, and together the two are constantly cracking jokes and tossing around witty comments. Both of them frustrate you and make you laugh and are extremely accurate depictions of the complexity that is teenage life.
Eleanor & Park deals with a lot of issues that kids face daily, even though it’s set in the mid-1980s. Family issues, making friends, bullying, love, learning to drive – this book totally encompasses what it’s like to be a teenager and all the challenges being a teen brings with it. Even if you haven’t experienced all of the same problems the characters face, it’s still easy to relate to their troubles and feel for them.
One of my favorite things was Rowell’s writing style. It is flawless. Every sentence reads like it effortlessly flowed from her fingers and out onto the page. Everything feels natural and real and ephemeral and clean. There aren’t any excessive descriptions or overly-ridiculous moments, which I really appreciated. Instead, this book felt honest and wonderful and I loved every word of it.
This is probably the craziest thing I’ll write on here, but reading this book made me feel weightless. I don’t know if that even makes sense to other people, but it was the kind of book that challenges you and makes you fall in love and breaks your heart and cracks you up all at the same time.
Fans of John Green definitely need to check this one out. Rowell’s style is incredibly similar, and I promise that if you love Green’s work, you’ll love Eleanor & Park. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t enjoy this lovely novel. It crosses gender lines and age lines and has absolutely no barriers. No matter who you are or what you like to read, do yourself a favor and go pick this one up. You’ll thank me later.