Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“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 & 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.

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Remember when it wasn’t cool to be a nerd? It really wasn’t so long ago that being nerdy meant you weren’t cool, you were, well, a nerd. And that’s who Eleanor and Park are without much of the label of being a nerd. But even in 1986, talking in Star Wars lines, comparing The Smiths and Joy Division means some level of weird.

If I had to summarize this book in one word, it would be cute. Or maybe adorable or sweet. Because it is. Amusing thing is, I had finished a rather racy New Adult book minutes before starting this (thank you, plane rides) and you might think that my brain would be so perverted it might not be impressed by the awkward, innocent nuances between Eleanor and Park. Wrong.

Eleanor is a bigger girl with bright red, frizzy hair who dresses like she raided a junkyard and is new to the neighborhood. She gets on the school bus and all of the kids instantly freeze her out of finding a seat. Park would love nothing more than be invisible. This girl is ultimately visible. Still, he fights all of his common sense when he moves over and snaps at her to sit down. Which she does. Then they don’t even directly look at each other for 50 pages. Awkwardly adorbs. When they finally graduate to holding hands, OMG, it is both the biggest and cutest thing ever.

While this book is lots and lots and lots of cute, there are darker and deeper issues too. Like Eleanor’s truly craptastic home life and Park’s not-immediately-obvious issues (which I have to say, I loved. I want to read more about Park) made their character arcs quite amazing and completely interesting. But don’t let you worry you, this book is still more light adorably innocent romance than an Issues Book.

While it’s set in 1986 as the first page states, it doesn’t feel like 1986. It’s set the past, but only a little. It doesn’t make it a gimmicky thing (thank god) where it reminds you every 10th sentence it’s set in the 80s. There’s some permed hair, but not a lot, no one wears workout clothes in neon shades and there are no mentions of shoulder pads. Mainly they talk about music. U2 is mentioned several times (my FAVORITE band) which made my nerd heart happy. The hitches with this time period are: no luxury of cell phones and texting, *gasp* internet! and emailing, and they actually have to worry about using batteries in their Walkmans. Whoa, 80s. And guess what, it really, really works for this story.

I think I was able to write this review with less than 50 uses of the words ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’. Awesome.

I also recommend Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas.

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Jennifer Dee

Jennifer spends most of her time with books. Whether it's reading, writing, selling, fangirling or crafting for them. When her duties YA/ MG editor of Novel Thoughts are momentarily fulfilled, she works as a Children's bookseller and is the Middle Grade editor for Riffle. She also enjoys coffee, bagels, knitting and Percy Jackson.

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  • Amandajaneereads

    This book looks awesome, definitely need to read it!

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