Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

Do you want to know that best way to win me over as a reader? I’m a sucker for well done Star Wars references and if you can put them in a new and unusual way then I will probably like the rest of the book just based on that one thing. But good for me the rest of the book was just as brilliant and unusual as the Star Wars reference that spoke to my nerdy little heart.

“You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”

Parts of this book are beautiful and parts of it made me angry at characters to my core. As a step-parent of a teenager it is so difficult for me to read of parents who treat their children in a neglectful or mean way. I will say that this is a great book for both teens and parents of teens. I’ve heard this book is being banned for language in some schools and that is too bad. There is no way to shelter children from everything and I’m for exposing them to language and questionable situations in order to keep an open dialog and prepare them for the world, but that is just my own parenting technique. I’m sure my 16-year old has heard much much worse at school and life in general. Most of the bad language in the book is from the abusive step-father anyway and is very much a part of his character. I don’t think he would have come across nearly as bad if the language he used was changed.

Okay so now that that part is settled onto the actual book.

This is a book about real people. Not the perfect and pretty, but the people who are not at the top of the pyramid in High School. The people who don’t exactly fit in and most of the time just try to keep their heads down to just get through it.

Eleanor comes from a very disadvantaged family life. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, being poor is not a crime, but her stepfather is abusive and most of the time Eleanor just tries to be invisible. The last time she wasn’t invisible she was kicked out of her house for over a year. I felt for Eleanor right away, she has so many things going against her it would be so easy to give up but she trudges on.

Park has a mostly happy home life. His parents are still madly in love (odd enough) and he isn’t in the in crowd but he isn’t a total outcast either. He runs in the middle and does just enough that he isn’t on anyone’s list. He lets the new Girl sit next to him on the bus one day and after that a slow friendship of sorts starts to kindle. It is so small at first but it is changing everything in Park’s life.

“What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away? The math seemed impossible.”

There were so many cute moments that were completely tender, innocent and loving. Remember how exciting it was the first time you held the hand of someone you really liked. Remember how it felt the first time you kissed a person you honestly cared for. This took me back through a lot of innocent first in a most fantastic way. Both Eleanor and Park are real and unsure of their bodies. They are awkward at times and in loving each other maybe learn to accept themselves for who they are a little bit more.

“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”

Besides the Eleanor and Park story line I loved the portrayal of Parks parents. Unlike other YA novels where the parents are absent or over the top Parks parents seem real. Park and his parents don’t always agree, they don’t always get along but they always love him. They are ever present in his life and do everything they can to support Park in everything he does. His mom totally grew on me and I really loved her so much by the end.

On the opposite side of the spectrum was Eleanor’s home life. Her mother in an abusive relationship, with five children thrown into the mix, just made me angry as a parent. It was not easy to read about Eleanor’s home life and I didn’t get how bad it really was until revelations were made later. I teared up to read Eleanor didn’t even have a toothbrush, the neglect was so awful and probably so honest it was difficult.

This story will have many moments that make you smile and some that make you sad. I swung hard on both sides of the spectrum. But, it is totally worth it. It is beautiful and about a love that you hope will stand the test of time. Maybe we are not perfect but we are possibly perfect for someone else. In my book Eleanor and Park are perfect for no one else except each other.