Normally, I don’t read YA books. It was never something I was into even as a high school student. Actually, I don’t even know if YA was a thing back then.
I happened to read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell recently because I’d heard good things about it and liked the cover. I didn’t realize it was YA until I started reading it and when I did I almost decided to set it aside and read something else. High school was a nightmare for me. I’d rather not read anything that would bring up those terrible memories. I decided to soldier on and read the book despite my misgivings and I’m glad I did. Eleanor & Park is now on my favorite book list.
It’s about two misfit high school students who fall in love. Eleanor is the new girl at school. She dresses in colorful hand-me-downs and has a wild mane of red curls. Park is half Korean and loves music and comic books. On Eleanor’s first day at school Park lets her sit next to him on the bus because no one else will. This initial gesture of kindness eventually leads to the two of them falling in love.
The book is told from alternating perspectives. In one chapter we see events from both Park’s and Eleanor’s points of view. Early on most of their contact is on the school bus and we get to see the small ways their friendship develops. We see how the way they think of each other evolves over time.
I loved this book because it perfectly encapsulates the anticipation, insecurities, and purity of falling in love for the first time. The characters are rough around the edges and awkward in their interactions in a way that makes them believable. Some of the chapters are only a few beautiful sentences long: a description of what it feels like to hold the others hand or look into their eyes.
Since reading Eleanor & Park I’ve read Fangirl and Landline too, but Eleanor & Park is still my favorite Rainbow Rowell novel. There is a beautiful simplicity to the writing that lines up perfectly with the storyline. It pulled me in a way that few books have managed to.
I checked Eleanor & Park out of the local library, but I’m going to buy a copy. I think that like Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto I’ll read it again and again.
If you haven’t read it yet I encourage you to pick up a copy.
If you have read it tell me what you thought about the book in the comments.