by rainbow rowell — published february 26, 2012 — st. martin's griffin
Two misfits, one extraordinary love. It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are 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. A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.
Park is a short, Asian, karate-practicing student, while Eleanor is an overweight, wild-red-haired, mens-tie-wearing-and-curtain-tassels-used-as-ponytails older sister of many kids. They meet on the bus one day when Eleanor, the new student, tries to find a place to sit, and Park begrudgingly slides over, not speaking, to let her sit down so she doesn't get yelled at by all the other kids. Their relationship begins with her reading his comic books over his shoulder, and one day, he lets her borrow one. It's about halfway through the book before they actually speak to one another.
Now, while I don't necessarily think they're star-crossed like the description says, I loved that they weren't typical ordinary protagonists. And they also weren't "quirky but still normal enough to be kind of cool." I mean, Eleanor was straight up WEIRD. As in, I found myself wondering why on Earth she would wear curtain tassels as hair ties (I mean, WHAT?).
But I loved the challenges they were presented with. The fact that it was a struggle for Park to stand up to the people bullying Eleanor was real. It wouldn't just be an obvious thing, and he struggled with it, and I loved that about him. They both just seemed like realistic characters more than "star-crossed lovers."
I also admired Eleanor's character. She was uncomfortable with herself, uncomfortable with her size and struggled with letting Park touch her. She also had a lot of family issues going on, and she handled them realistically, as well as well, for someone of her age. She seemed to take on a mother role to all her siblings, taking care of them when she needed to.
My only super downside to this was that there didn't seem to be a definite plot line anywhere. There was sort of a climax, but I was definitely bored with the stasis of this novel, and the fact that nothing really happened other than the relationship between Park and Eleanor. I felt like the book never really built up to anything. So I would have liked a little bit more action, but it wasn't too bad.
While this definitely was not in the "Looking for Alaska" ranking like the description says, it was still a poignant and lovely book of two teens struggling to grow up as two individuals in a town that didn't really want them to be individual.