Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park. Its one of those tragic, teen love stories that you wish would never end. Eleanor has newly been allowed to move back in with her mom, siblings and stepfather. After a terrible fight, he kicked her out and wouldn’t let her come back home. Seeing as how Richie is an abusive drunk, Eleanor’s transition back into her own family was difficult. For fear of inflicting his wrath, she did her best to remain invisible. Invisibility is what she could not produce at school. With bright red hair, and a plump body, Eleanor quickly became a target for the various cliques at the school. But everyday, she rode the bus to and from school with Park. Everyday, Park would read a comic book and one day Eleanor started reading along. Eventually, the two navigated their way towards a budding romance.
So much of this book reminded me of my youth. My crushes and even how my current marriage developed over the years. Rowell is a master of subtle emotions. The changes in Eleanor and Park and their feelings for each other happen so gradually, so naturally, that you don’t even realize how perfect it all is, until you take Eleanor’s stepfather into account.
The book is set in the 1980s, so I appreciated the sincerity of the relationship and the lack of technological crutches. Everything came down to looks, tone of voice, body language. This book will resonate greatly with teenagers, although I really only know adults who’ve read it. But it does have all the great elements in it. The mean girls, the abusive stepfather, the misunderstood teenagers trying to figure themselves out in a crazy world and how teenagers are constantly on the edge. They live in the 4-walled bubble of home, but have one foot out the door towards adulthood.
I listened to the audio book version. The authors narrated male and female for the alternating Eleanor and Park chapters. The dual perspective really added to the development of their relationship as they would recap some of the same scenarios from different view points. I sometimes halt at alternating perspectives, because the books tend to get repetitive, but Rowell did a good job of providing original material in each chapter.
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