Eleanor & Park
By: Rainbow Rowell
Published: February 26th 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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Goodreads description--Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
I really loved Eleanor & Park. This story was so real. Everything about it. I loved the slow development of Eleanor and Park's relationship. There's definitely no insta-love here. The relationship builds in such an authentic way that there was really no questioning it for me. Everything's real from the slow progression of their relationships to the limited amount of times that Eleanor and Park are actually alone together. There are siblings present and especially parents (and step-parent) which are often absent from YA literature.
Eleanor was such a true character for me. She's described as being "fat," but I'm really unsure of how "fat" she was. Either way, an MC with curves is not something we normally see either. Yet it is totally real. I normally hate hearing a character talk down to themselves or dwell on their appearance, but the way that Eleanor does this wasn't as annoying as much as I was struck with how honest of a portrayal it was. I remember being that way. I remember feeling that way. Though never "fat," I definitely wasn't "skinny" growing up. I remember thinking some of the same thoughts as Eleanor. And I wasn't annoyed with it.
Park is the exact opposite of Eleanor--physically anyway. He's "skinny" and half Korean. They don't seem to have much in common at all, but they develop this truly deep relationship. Eleanor has a couple of moments when she's being a total girl and Park is being a total guy, resulting in these stupid fights that could be avoided. But that's just another thing that makes this story so real.
Both characters have a past that they struggle with. Eleanor's parents split up and her dad doesn't really have much to do with her--only when he needs something. Eleanor's mom is remarried to a typical jerk--drinker, abuser, and all-around pervert. Eleanor has four younger siblings, and you can see her struggle with the need to escape her stepfather, while also needing to protect her siblings. Normally I've read the perspective of the younger sibling left behind with the abusive parent while the older sibling escaped. Again, another real aspect and an a unique POV we don't normally see in this genre. Park thinks his father thinks he's a sissy--they don't have the best relationship, while still having a much better relationship with his entire family than Eleanor does.
The ending felt slightly rushed to me. And I'd probably love to hear that Rainbow Rowell is doing a sequel, but there was closure at the same time. Oh and beware of f-bombs. There are quite a good number in this book for sure.
All in all, Eleanor & Park gets 4.5 stars from me. Any fan of contemporary romance will fall in love with this story. Have you read Eleanor & Park? If so, what did you think? Let me know!