5++++ REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by, Rainbow Rowell

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~ Synopsis ~

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you,
Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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.

REVIEW

I binge read this book in a matter of hours today, because from the first few pages I was hooked – the memories that flood through me of my own childhood – misunderstood youth and the love of the music of that time entranced me. Rainbow Rowell gives us a story about two small town kids – both different in their own way, both struggling to make it through their high school experience unscathed, un-noticed maybe? Or striving to be set apart from the rest? I’m not sure – and neither are they. Because that’s what most kids that don’t feel like they fit in strive for in that high school moment – either to be ignored or admired. There rarely is an in between.

Eleanor is big – bright – redheaded and feisty – when she meets Park on the bus, her first day at a new school their first moment of meeting is awkward at best, but these two form a quiet – almost silent bond over comics and their love of music. Eleanor is chubby, Park is half Korean – both different in their own ways, in their small Nebraska town. But she’s new – and she’s the target, even in the mind of Park. Because as much as we want to tell ourselves at sixteen that we don’t care what anybody things – that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Park struggles internally with his need to be around Eleanor – because they like the same stuff and at sixteen? Finding someone who just gets you – is the most important thing. He struggles with his ever growing feelings for her, because he’s afraid of what his friends will think if their budding relationship, as much as he doesn’t want to be that guy, deep down he has the same insecurities of ‘belonging’ as everyone – but their connection flourishes – deepens and he admits to himself, and to Eleanor that he loves her –

Eleanor’s home life is something no one should ever have to experience, but she finds solace with Park – their time together, reading comics and listening to The Smiths, Joy Division and everything awesome about eighties alt rock – post punk. The nostalgia of this book choked me up at times, because nothing feels more real – makes you feel more alive than your first love. That first taste of it – when it’s truly new because you’ve never felt anything like it before in your life. That first time he holds your hand; that feeling is illustrated throughout this entire book, leaving me in tears more than once and I wish I could bottle that feeling, tuck it away and save it for those moments when I really need it.

A book like this is why I love reading – getting to know these characters and being able to experience their first love – the first time Park held her hand, the first time he touched her frizzy red curls and the moment when her need for him swallowed any insecurity she had about her body – I felt every single moment with them. And that doesn’t always happen when I read. This is the fourth book i’ve read this week – all of them were four star or above reads for me – but nothing made me really feel so much with every page I turned.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia of the time – the high school drama – the first loves – call it what you will, Eleanor and Park is a story about two people that end up finding something in one another – nether of them thought was possible, until they tasted it for the first time.

The synopsis is true – you will remember your first love, and how it pulled you under.

Their story will stick with me just as long….

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