Feb 19, 2013

YA Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26th by St. Martins Press
Source: ARC via NetGalley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
"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 sixteen."
"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, 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 find it that the hardest reviews to write are those for books that I loved most. It just feels that there are no words powerful enough to express how happy this novel made me. I formed a close connection to this book, and had I made a list of 2012 favorite reads, Eleanor and Park would be very high up on it. It felt personal, and it felt mine.

The story takes place in 1986, a year before I was born. I am old enough to remember making mix tapes, running out of batteries in walkmans and begging for privacy talking on the land-line phone because, well, what other options were there? 90s nostalgia aside, I highly enjoyed this novel for numerous reasons. Both Eleanor and Park are very-well rounded and multi-layered characters that you can't help but fall in love with from the word go. Since the story is told from two perspectives, we gain enough insight into their lifestyles which define who they are-Eleanor coming from a broken and unstable home, Park defined by his ethnicity. When they clash, surprise, it's not insta-love. I loved watching them slowly bonding over music, comic books and common misfit issues, and this is where the personal connections comes in. Some of the conversations between the two of them sounded like echoes of conversations that Darling and I had. I many ways Eleanor reminded me of myself, especially in her shortcomings. Just like Park does to Eleanor, my boyfriend introduced me to the awesomeness that is Watchmen (among others). So when I say that the characters were relatable, and their conversations and voices realistic, I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

The romance is not a typical love story, and there is no happy ending, just something that has to happen. My heart skipped a beat at the last page and reminded me what Eleanor and Park's story is all about-love against all odds, and finding yourself in spite of all obstacles.

Eleanor and Park was, in short, charming, witty, entertaining, emotional, a guaranteed re-read and definite favorite.
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