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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin
Format: e-galley
Source: Netgalley
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.

This book y'all...THIS BOOK! Writing reviews for book you love should be easy, but it never is. And I LOVED this book. Like, full on madly, completely, obsessively in love with this book. So in love that I'm not sure I have the right words to express why I love it so much. But, since this is a review, and reviews require things like words and sentences (hopefully coherent ones), I will do my are some words: this book wrecked my heart in the most mother-effing beautiful way!

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park is about two misfit sixteen year olds in 1986 who find each other, find first love, find great music, and even find a bit of themselves. Park, the half-Korean boy in the funky t-shirts, feels invisible, while Eleanor, the girl with the big red hair and wacky outfits, is impossible to ignore. These two come from vastly different homes and families, but they bond over comic books, music, and a shared sense of humor. First love hits them hard, but the fall is worth it.

Eleanor & Park is YA contemporary at its very best! Rainbow Rowell has crafted something truly spectacular and special. Everything about this book is unforgettable: the characters, the romance, the writing, the way you will feel after finishing it. I wish I could erase this book from my memory simply so I could have the sheer pleasure of reading it for the first time again. It is THAT heart-achingly, heart-breakingly, heartbeat-skippingly good (so good I have to make up words to describe it!).

Eleanor & Park doesn't start with a bang or end on an explosive note, it isn't loud or in your face, it doesn't take you to a precipice and drop you over the edge or hurl you even higher. It doesn't need to. The beauty is in its subtlety, in its slow build, reminiscent of the songs Eleanor and Park love so much. This isn't the type of book to gobble up quickly, it deserves to be savored, every page tasted and appreciated. Rowell writes with an addicting humor, unabashed honesty, and a pitch-perfect YA voice that feels timeless. This isn't a sweet and simple love story; the story has hard edges, painful blows, and deals with some heavy stuff, but Rowell delivers and explores these things with finesse and eloquence.

At the heart of this book is its main characters, Eleanor and Park. These are two of the best written YA characters I have ever met. They feel so real, like they have to exist somewhere and I could someday happen to sit next to one of them on the bus or be standing behind them in a check-out line. I'm not sure I can choose a favorite, I love them both so much and connected with each of them. They are both just so breathtaking, as individuals and as a pair. Park, with his kind soul, funky t-shirts, and sweet martial art moves, is endearingly charming. And Eleanor, with her sharp wit, courage, and unfailing honest, is a breath of fresh YA air. But I think what I love most about these two, is how they love each other, how they see each other.

The romance between Eleanor and Park is so wonderfully executed. It's soft and sexy, sweet and passionate, miraculous and terrifying, at times heart-wrenching (and heart-wrecking), but impossible to turn away from. First love can be insanely intense, all consuming, can feel like the end of the world and just the beginning all at the same time, and the romance between these two is no different. The difference between this YA relationship and other YA relationships that make us roll our eyes or scream in frustration (the insta-loves, the scary obsessive loves, the we-fall-in-love-and-suddenly-become-personality-less loves), is that this love isn't forced, it isn't romanticized for the sake of making readers swoon. It's just real and believable and addicting and, for the few hours it takes you to read this book, it feels like the most important thing in the world.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Eleanor and Park feel like they have become a part of me; they're in my heart, have been on my mind since I finished the book, and I hope they never leave me. Eleanor & Park has easily made its way into my top favorite books of 2013 and  I will be singing its praises fo'evah! A definite must read...seriously, read it, love it, then come talk to me about it!


Purchase: Amazon / B&N 

Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell is the author of ATTACHMENTS. She has two novels coming out in 2013 -- ELEANOR & PARK in February and FANGIRL in the fall. 
Rainbow lives with her husband and two sons in Omaha, Nebraska. Right at this moment, she is probably arguing with someone about something that doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things -- or trying to figure out how Sherlock faked his death.
Blog and other stuff at


JennRenee said...

I just bought this one on audio. Can't wait to listen to it. I have seen so many great things about this book. Awesome review. I love real characters and I think that is what puts books over the edge from good to great for me.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

YES to every single thing you said!!! I just loved this one so much. It came at a total surprise, but so awesome. Great review! :)

~Sara @ Forever 17 Books