Update: I need to update this review because several conversations have brought to my attention (and I’m sorry that it wasn’t obvious to me) that a lot of the descriptions of Park in this book are racist and fetishising. I’m finding some more knowledgeable review to link here at the moment but for now please bear this in mind and taken my review from the ignorant point it stood in.
I read Eleanor and Park shortly before my complete reading slump in the spring (I think it was weirdly one of the books to cause it- I read this and some other really good ones and then others didn’t compare) so I completely failed to review it at the time.
I never really had a great deal of interest in reading Rainbow Rowell’s other books, I think I got it into my head that they were a kind of YA fantasy that I was interested in, but it turns out I was very wrong. I absolutely loved Eleanor and Park. It had that sort of gritty quality that makes a good, believable romance and the ending… Wasn’t an ending. Like teenage romances don’t get wrapped up all neat and tidy, neither did Eleanor’s romance with Park.
The basic gist; Eleanor and Park are two teenagers who develop a friendship (after a slightly antagonistic beginning) and eventually fall in love over comic books and mixed tapes. Eleanor has recently returned to living with her mum after a stint sleeping on a family friend’s sofa because her step-dad kicked her out. Park is trying to keep his head down in a town where he tenuously gets along with the popular kids, but still has to deal with being a mixed race kid in 1980s America. Both of them find a way to forget their home lives in each other.
I really liked the fact that the two main characters aren’t conventional. Park is half Korean, Eleanor a slightly overweight girl with frizzy ginger hair. Neither of them scream conventional hero; but their story shows that they should be.
There’s a lot going on in the story; bullying, domestic abuse, interracial relationships and the importance of letting people go when the time is right. So it felt like a lot was packed in, but not overwhelmingly so. These are the stories of many teenagers, so why shouldn’t they be represented?
So yeah, I really liked this book. I’m glad I finally read it!