Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

Release date: 26 February 2013
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★ – 10/10
Goodreads link
Book Depository link

Eleanor and Park blurb:

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus.  Black t-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible.  But not to Eleanor…

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other.  They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

This book is my absolute favourite Rainbow Rowell story (printed as at Nov 2016).

The simplicity of the story as a concept is not even remotely unique.  Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl have obstacle to overcome, boy and girl get back together.  However the depth to the characters and situations is what makes this one of my favourite Young Adult (YA) fiction stories ever.

Both Eleanor and Park are real – possibly the realest characters I’ve ever met.  Neither of them are remotely perfect and that is what truly brings their essence to life.

The story is told by both sides of the duo, and also explores some of the cultural and social differences that each of them dealt with growing up.  It explores a multitude of issues, including bullying, domestic abuse and family violence, racism, and body image.  It is this strange, yet enthralling, mixture of issues that constantly has you emotionally reeling from one section to the next, while hoping with everything that they can make it through the seemingly impossible.

This book resonates with people on a multitude of levels.  It is set in the eighties, and despite being YA fiction, I feel that this has helped older readers really get into the story (for example, I’m 33 and by no means qualify for YA, but this story appeals to me as it reminds me of then I grew up).  It also brings out a powerful empathy in the reader.  I am sure I cried no less than five times reading this the first time (and probably more the second and third).

One other thing that I really enjoy about Rainbow Rowell stories in general is that nothing is wrapped up neatly in a bow.  You’re always left with an expectation that more could eventuate, and maybe hope that there could be a sequel further on down the line.

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