Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press
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Eleanor just wants to keep her head down and survive. To stay out of her step-dad’s notice. To preserve the tiny space in her tiny house that contains the only things that belong to her.
To Park, she’s the girl with the crazy hair and the weird clothes. When he lets her share his seat on the bus so she doesn’t fall victim to bullies behind him, he doesn’t realize he’s opened his life to a girl who will wake him up in a way he’s never been awake before. At sixteen, they both know love doesn’t always last, but sometimes you can’t help hoping it will.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book. I’d started reading Fangirl over the summer last summer, and just didn’t really get into it. I thought maybe I wasn’t a Rainbow Rowell fan, (possibly the only one?) but then I read the first page of Eleanor & Park.
It didn’t even take the whole page. Just the first line, and I was HOOKED. I love Park. I love his passion, his determined optimism, his complicated relationships with each of his family members. The relationship between him and his dad? So good. So complex and believable. I loved that none of the relationships felt clichéd or simplistic. Even Eleanor’s relationships with her family members and the relationships with the peripheral characters carried their own weight and had this organic feeling to them. I loved when the characters surprised me, and the ways those surprises made so much sense.
I also really liked that though there’s some romantic content between Eleanor and Park, Rowell doesn’t give us the play by play report of everything that happened. We get the setup and then maybe a summary sentence or two that kind of just lets us know things happened. We didn’t need the details. The important parts of their relationship weren’t the physical things that happened between them. I liked that Eleanor didn’t reinvent herself in the story. That it wasn’t like “oh, hey, if I dress cool and lose weight so I look like other girls, I’ll land this cute boyfriend.” She stayed herself, and that was exactly who Park loved. It wasn’t really a focal issue in the story. There are a couple of moments where she shows some insecurity about her body, but it felt natural, the way we all have those moments. Over all, I loved it. Definitely a must-read for romance lovers.
Extreme profanity used frequently.
Sexual Content (SPOILER ALERT)
Some heavy making out. They do remove their clothes a couple of times, and there’s a moment where it looks like they’ll have sex, but they stop just shy of it. For the most part, we get a few details about the point at which the romance progresses, but I liked that Rowell sort of sets up the scene and then jumps ahead, so we don’t get the play by play between the two. Eleanor is so private, I’m sure she prefers to maintain that silence.
Eleanor finds creepy sexual notes written on her school textbook covers. She worries that the sender means her harm.
Eleanor and her siblings hear arguments between her mom and step-dad that become violent. Park and another boy fight. It’s brief. Park kicks a drunk man in the face (it’s a revenge move.)
Girls in Eleanor’s gym class pick on her and at one point destroy her clothes.
Eleanor’s step-dad is an alcoholic. Kids from school offer Eleanor a beer. She takes a sip but spills most of it.