Eleanor & Park is Rainbow Rowell’s first young adult novel. It is a contemporary romance set in the 1980s Omaha. (Is it really contemporary if it’s 1980s?) The story follows two misfits – Eleanor, a curly red-haired girl who comes from a broken family and Park, a young half Asian boy who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the school – as they start falling in love with each other.
Rainbow Rowell writes both YA and adult fiction. I’ve heard about her for a long while now and I loved Kindred Spirits so I dived into Eleanor & Park soon after. And I’ve got to say, I’m excited to read more. Fangirl is next on the list, probably sometime sooner rather than later.
I love the sweet little romance that developed between Park and Eleanor. It felt inevitable that they were going to be together. They just seem to fit together like puzzle pieces. But it wasn’t love at first sight either, they dislike each other at first, but slowly, their walls chip away and they let each other into their lives and boom, the romance blossoms like a roundhouse kick in the face. It was nothing spectacular, no grand romantic gesture. It just felt like real high schoolers experiencing their first love.
I love Park’s family. I wish I had Park’s family. His parents are so chill. His mother in particular was so fun to read about. And heck, his mother even had a character arc. When was the last time you read a young adult story where the parents actually had character development. His mother doesn’t seem to have a lot of Asian values, coming from South Korea. Not that I know what South Koreans value actually are like, but it stood out to me a little.
It took me a while to get into the book. Partly because the start was a little slow, and partly because Rainbow Rowell’s face was stuck in my head whenever I read about Eleanor. Full figured, curly haired girl with a big family. I don’t mean to say that Eleanor is a Mary Sue or even an author self-insert, it’s just what popped into my mind. If I hadn’t researched her up while writing the review for Kindred Spirits, I wouldn’t have had this issue. It’s not unwarranted, but it’s not something I want to be thinking about when I’m reading too. But once I was able to stop thinking about that, the rest of the story was great.
I found Park a little bit too perfect to be a misfit. Beyond the whole half Asian thing (which honestly I don’t remember really playing that big of a role in the story) I won’t exactly say he’s a misfit. He’s on friendly terms with some of the popular kids in school and the beautiful girl in class has a thing for him too. He has good grades, does taekwondo… anyway, I think most of it is just in his head, which though a valid thing, just didn’t really vibed with me.
The 1980s references were pretty cool. I’m not a 80s kid, but I got a lot of the references. It’s similar to Ready Player One is some sense, though they focused on different medias. Reading about Eleanor and Park reading Watchmen just brings a smile to my face.
The ending, oh boy, the ending. Why, I mean, why, I mean gah. That last 25 pages or so literally flipped the story on its head. It left me somewhat satisfied and wanting more at the same time. Same thing with Kindred Spirits. I’m sensing a trend here. I hope Fangirl doesn’t leave me hanging the same way.
A great young adult, contemporary (1980s) romance novel. Leaves a warm sensation in your heart as you read and a stupid smile on your face that you just can’t wipe off. And then leaves you somewhat satisfied while still wanting more.