Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is an extraordinarily well written Young Adult novel. Eleanor comes from a poor dysfunctional family, being forced to share her room with several siblings. She cannot afford to wear makeup or purchase new clothes on a regular basis so she needs to make do with items around her house. The only morning ritual Eleanor really has is her mother rubbing a little vanilla extract behind her ears to give the illusion of using a scented body soap or perfume. While Park and his family are middle class, who do not have money problems in the same manner as Eleanor, he still has some issues with his family. Park and his dad do not have similar dispositions causing some strain between them. When Eleanor walks onto the school bus one morning, everyone stops and stares at her. Eleanor has scarves wrapped around her waist and is dressed in a rather flamboyant fashion. Park sees Eleanor and immediately dismisses her presence until she walks to the back of the school bus where the only vacant seat is right next to him. Rather reluctantly, Park allows her to join him in his shared seating area. This moment changes everything.

Rainbow Rowell was able to write authentic realistic characters who acted like typical teenagers. The dialogue was fun and poignant, the setting was believable, and the relationship was intriguing. Personally, I enjoyed the fact that Eleanor and Park’s relationship was built slowly throughout the duration of the novel. When Eleanor first meets Park, the two do not have this instant connection mimicking the love-at-first-sight scenario that occurs in a lot of other narratives. Instead, the pair sit by one another without speaking each morning and try not to brush up against the other (or even speak) as the school bus hits certain divots in the pavement causing them to move about in their seats.

The first spark between the two characters occurs when Park notices Eleanor reading over his shoulder. On the school bus, Park would read his comic books to pass the time. Not having the luxury to purchase her own books, Eleanor does not have a lot to keep her occupied. She casually looks over his shoulder reading as he flips the pages. Park eventually notices this and leaves comics for Eleanor to borrow. “The next morning, when Eleanor got on the bus, there was a stack of comics next to her. She picked them up and sat down. He was already reading. Eleanor put the comics between her books and stared at the window. For some reason, she didn’t want to read in front of him. It would be like letting him watch her eat. It would be like… admitting something. But she thought about the comics all day, as soon as she got home, she climbed onto her bed and got them out. They were all the same title – Swamp Thing.”

After Park lends Eleanor his comics, the pair soon strike up a conversation on the characters and story. This, eventually, leads to them talking about music, school, and a variety of other topics providing a natural progression for the characters to transition from comic books to subject matters of a more personal nature; thus, they form a bond.

As a reader it is enjoyable to see both Park and Eleanor’s perspective throughout the book, Eleanor and Park. Rowell alternates narrators, allowing a deeper understanding of their state of minds. While neither is done in the first person narrative, the narration follows Eleanor and Park’s thoughts and emotional state, allowing the reader to learn more in that moment. Rather than have the story be told purely from Eleanor or Park’s perspective, the revolving narrator allows the reader to experience both characters. Interestingly, Rowell did not alternate chapters but would interject Park then Eleanor throughout. I loved Eleanor and Park, it is extraordinarily well written and superbly executed. For anyone who enjoys YA or character-driven novels, Eleanor and Park is a story that would appeal to them.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

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