Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park has been on my TBR list for a while. I swiped over to the first page while walking and sipping an iced Tazo Awake tea sweetened with coconut syrup and honey. The day was bright and the sky blue as my eyes scanned the first few lines. They were… perfect. It was immediate – my fall. Suddenly I was Alice, falling, falling, falling… for the next twenty-four hours at least… I’d fall into Eleanor & Park.
“He’d stopped trying to bring her back.She only came back when she felt like it, in dreamsand lies and broken-down déjà vu.Like, he’d be driving to work, and he’d see a girlwith red hair standing on the corner-and he’dswear, for half a choking moment, that it was her.”
The novel begins in August of ’86 – on a school bus like one you may have had to take. The purgatory that is your mode of transport from your bus stop to high school. The kids in the back of the bus are the popular kids – and – as in any quintessential Molly Ringwald-esque film – the assholes. Park – tries to drown them out with his Walkman but it’s not much help. When Eleanor a new girl gets on the bus, she’s round and soft, and is a girl you can’t ignore – though you soon learn she wishes you would – and can do a pretty good job of disappearing despite her “crazy hair, bright red on top of curly” and wardrobe that made you wonder if she “wanted people to look at her. Or maybe like she didn’t get what a mess she was.” The year had already begun, seats were set, and as she moved farther back to the bus Park did what only he could – he made room for her. The novel is set in Omaha in a place where people have known people since it was basically just cornfields and so if you’re new – you don’t fit – except Park- because his dad was a native and a veteran – he was left alone – mostly – even if his mom was Korean.
Not much happens between Eleanor and Park until Park shows up with his comic books, X-Men or Watchman (I can’t recall which came first) and Eleanor so starved for any kind of escape secretly reads along with Park, and when Park discovers she’s reading he begins to wait for her, and then shares his comics with her…
Soon their holding hands and falling in love over music, dubbed on mix tapes. What is weird to everyone else about Eleanor is only beauty, and what is strange and exotic about Park to Eleanor is unraveling in all the good ways a person can be unraveled.
It’s not all roses of course – Eleanor’s home life is bleak, where Park’s is quintessential – his parents loving and kind – at first worry about Eleanor because they understand better the poor circumstances of her life – yet she soon wins them over, or they win her over, and through Park she’s able to escape, and find love, true and pure.
Where at home it’s torment, and hidden bruises, and scrapping by, and a step-father who likes booze and other things…
What I liked: This book is funny, and sad, and geeky, and smart in all the right ways. The character driven plot – I enjoyed completely.
The ending. It’ll leave you guessing.
Have I said to much? If you were like me, up until yesterday, and haven’t read this book – I totally suggest you do. Like right now. Just go. You’ll fall too.
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
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