Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was the first book I completed after graduating from UCLA. It was exactly the kind of book I needed to read post-degree. It was fun, tragic, hopeful, and real.
It’s considered a Young-Adult novel and, I’m not going to lie, I was a bit apprehensive about reading it. I feel like there are many people who look down on YA novels. At one point, I was one of them. However, after binging on Eleanor & Park I was struck by guilt. How dare I judge a book based on where it is located within a bookstore. Have I, like many others, not fallen head over heals for Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree? Pssst…it’s considered a Children’s Book. Have I not obsessed over the Harry Potter series? I remember seeing copies of the novels in the Scholastic book catalog I used to receive in grade school. Because I earned a degree in English, all of a sudden I was too good to read a novel with a bright, fun book jacket? I’m happy that I looked past my narrow-mindedness and cracked this story open.
Simply put, Eleanor & Park is about a boy and girl who meet in high school. The girl is severely bullied; the boy is severely independent (although he admittedly cares a little about what people think of him). They first meet each other on the school bus. He doesn’t want anything to do with her but in an attempt to keep her head down and avoid further rejection she takes a seat beside him. Neither of them are happy about the arrangement but it is on this shared bus seat that their tale begins.
I’m not going into more detail about plot only because I hope you will go out and experience this book for yourself. Yes, not just read it but experience it.
The characters are so well written and well rounded. They could easily be friends of yours. If you don’t see yourself in these characters then you’ll see someone you know within them. Personally, an aspect of myself is in every page of this book, which is probably why I love it so dearly. The situations the characters find themselves in are incredibly true to life. The plot isn’t the only wow-factor that emerges from the pages; Rowell’s writing style is genius too. She goes back and forth between Eleanor’s point of view and then Park’s. It’s this type of seesaw that builds excitement, anticipation, and even a bit of anxiety within the reader. “If only he/she knew…” often popped into my head. The chapters are short: some are mere sentences while others are a few pages long. It’s the perfect book for the reader who hates cutting their reading off mid-chapter or the reader who finds themselves flipping through the pages thinking, “When is this chapter over?” Even though I love reading, I love short chapters more. I don’t have a complaint or criticism of the book…except maybe one…but we can talk about it after you’ve read the book for yourself.
So, please, if you’re a lover of the written word, if you ache for stories that are real, go out now and buy the book. Fall in love with Eleanor & Park.
What’s your favorite YA book?