BOOK REVIEW: Eleanor & Park – by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
First published: April 12th 2012
Finished reading: August 23rd 2014
Pages: 325
Rating 4

“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

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When I first heard about Eleanor & Park, a book where Rainbow Rowell explores the first love between two not-so-normal teenagers, I was not sure whether this book would be for me. I’m normally not a sucker for romance; to be honest I detest anything too cheesy in general. But after reading Eleanor & Park, I cannot do anything but agree with just about everyone that this is an adorable little story. And that the end left me wanting for more, thinking both life and the ending Rowell left us with are JUST NOT FAIR. Rowell switches constantly between the POV of Eleanor and Park, but instead of it distracting from the storyline, it only adds more dept to the story. You cannot help feeling for the main characters, and crossing your fingers everything will work out in the end… And keep your tissues closeby if you are sensible to sadness. In short, if you like YA and romance in general, this book is definitely for you!

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Poor Eleanor has everything against her… Red hair that cannot be controlled, a not-so-normal wardrobe, chubbiness, a personality that gets her into frequent trouble, a poor family AND an evil stepfather. (Maybe I can relate to her so well because of my own high school experience; somehow being a fat, shy teenager wearing glasses and having high marks means instant bullying…) When she is about to start her first day at a new school, she is the target of bullying the moment she enters the school bus. A Korean guy named Park saves her from the full embarrassment and lets her sit down next to him on the bus to school… Although he doesn’t seem too happy about it. He is a bit of an outcast himself, only left alone because he used to hang out with the ‘cool guys’. Eleanor doesn’t get away that easily though, and she only keeps going to school because at home things are even worse. Her stepfather is a horrible man, who had already kicked her out of her house once, and she tries to be as invisible as possible around him. Her younger siblings are also suffering, sleeping all together in the same small room, but not the way she does.

Park has something closer to a ‘model family’, although they have their own problems. He slowly starts to warm up to Eleanor, and starts lending her comic books and making her tapes with his music on them. Park is afraid what others will say about him hanging out with someone like Eleanor… But he soon realizes he doesn’t care anymore. Slowly their affection increases, but they never seem to be completely alone, and the bullies are still tormenting Eleanor. And we are not even talking about her stepfather, who will probably kill both her and Park when he finds out about their blossoming relationship… Will they succeed being together in the end?

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I won’t go further in discussing what happens next in Eleanor & Park to not spoil the fun for those who haven’t read it yet. But what I can say is that I wish I would have had an experience like than in high school… Unconditional love is not an easy thing to find (although I can say I have found it now with my hubby!), and makes reading about this love between two ‘misfits’ adorable. The ending probably took away the fifth star of this review, as well as some of the more cliche moments of this book did. But that doesn’t take away that Eleanor & Park is definitely recommendable, and I’m glad I finally came around reading it.