Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkTitle: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: February 26th, 2013

Interest: Positive reviews / Historical fiction

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

“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’m really tempted to simply write, “Eleanor & Park is fabulous. You must read it now!” and leave it at that.  I’m not, however, because I really want to gush over everything I love about it.

I felt such an array of emotions while reading Rainbow Rowell’s YA debut.  I laughed plenty of times, and I think I teared up just as many times as I laughed.  Eleanor and Park come alive on the page and I couldn’t help but love them.  There were so many times that I wanted to hug Eleanor.  She needs lots of hugs.  Park is absolutely adorable and so real.  And his parents?!  I ended up loving them big time.

Something that surprised me about Eleanor & Park is that it’s written in third person.  I didn’t even realize it at first because it’s *that* well done.  I never felt like I was reading it as an outsider; I always knew exactly how Eleanor and Park felt.  I’m often turned off by books written in third person because it distracts me.  The characters in third person novels don’t always stick with me, but that’s not the case with Eleanor and Park.  Rainbow Rowell wrote third person the way it should be written.

I love that Eleanor & Park is a love story, but it’s not an overly mushy love story.  It’s a love story that’s sweet and tender.  It’s even bittersweet at times.  But it’s also a story about self-discovery and opening up.  Both and Eleanor and Park are discovering who they are, and they’re discovering it through each other and through their relationship.  Park doesn’t need to be like his friends and who his father wants him to be.  Eleanor discovers what a family really is and how to love herself.  Really, Eleanor & Park is simply perfect and you need to read it.

I have Eleanor & Park labeled as historical fiction since it takes place in 1986.  It’s awful labeling that time period as historical fiction, but for today’s teens, that is historical fiction.  There isn’t a big moment in history taking place in this book, but there are plenty of 80s allusions present that I’m sure many of my students will wonder about.

To sum this up, Eleanor & Park is already a favorite of 2013.  There’s no doubt in my mind about that.  Rainbow Rowell can’t write another YA novel fast enough because I want to read everything she writes.  Thankfully she has some adult/new adult novels out that I can read.

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