Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just Finished Reading ... Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Published on February 26, 2013
by St Martins Griffin

Source: bought

Connect with the author: blog : tumblr : Facebook : Twitter.





Summary from jacket flap: Eleanor: red hair, wrong clothes. Standing beside him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough ... Eleanor.

Park: He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punchline. There's a place on his chest , just below her throat, that makes her want to keep promises ... Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen year olds -- smart enough to know that true love never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

My take: If you love realistic YA fiction, you've got to put Eleanor and Park on your to-read list. It's really something special. It's a love story, it's a gritty family drama, it's a story about bullying and outcasts -- all woven together with a magic and subtlety that astonished me. Usually books like this -- books about kids that don't fit in, kids who have tough home lives, kids who are picked on -- are written with a fair amount of hand-wringing and fist-shaking. Which is okay with me, because these are important issues, to be sure.

In contrast, Eleanor and Park just shows us these two characters and their worlds. Eleanor is the new girl at school. Her hair is too red and her clothes are too odd and she's immediately a target for the mean kids on the bus. Park doesn't really fit in either -- he's half-Korean in a school that's, as the book describes it, "seriously white." But Park flies under the social radar. He smiles at the kung fu jokes and puts on his headphones to drown out all the noise.

Park didn't have any luck -- or status -- to spare on that dumb redhead.

When Park sees Eleanor on the bus, his first thought is that she's crazy to look that weird on purpose. She starts reading comic books over his shoulder. He gives her one to borrow. Note: they still haven't said a word to each other at this point. Eleanor's home life is tough. It takes a number of chapters to piece together exactly what's going on, but it's clear that she hates her stepfather and dreads being at home. She and Park fall hard for each other, a relationship that seems born of mutual understanding as much as teen hormones. And I loved the fact that the book even pokes gentle fun at their love, having Eleanor mock Romeo and Juliet to her English teacher, saying "they don't even know each other." Park's response? That the play endures because "people want to remember what it's like to be young and in love."

Eleanor and Park definitely gets that "first love" feeling just right: the desperation, the scheming, the awkwardness, the pure magic, the inevitable heartbreak. Like Juliet, Eleanor has to hide her relationship with Park. Her difficult life at home is presented with such matter-of-fact, soul-crushing detail that I had to pause in my reading a few times. I sat there, wondering about those kids I remembered from school, the ones who never had clean gym clothes, who spent lunch in the library, who walked through the halls with a wary expression.

I definitely related a lot to Park. I also attended a very homogenous high school and, like Park, I fit in just enough but not completely. This book is set in the 1980s, and I confess to memories of mix tapes and gym suits and 867-5309 and moms who gave home perms in the garage.

Eleanor didn't have anywhere to hide her secrets ... She was running out of time with him.

As their love deepens, Eleanor's situation at home gets more dire. The ending of this book was moving. Realistic. Poignant. Beautifully subtle. Don't miss this one!

Giveaway Alert: St. Martin’s Press is giving away a set of Harman Headphones to celebrate the release of Eleanor & Park. One grand-prize winner with receive a set of headphones and Eleanor & Park. Twenty runners-up will receive a copy of the book.

Click here to enter the Eleanor & Park Headphone Sweepstakes!
Enter through Wednesday, March 6.

33 comments:

  1. I skimmed because I'm in the middle but I already love it and so glad you enjoyed it too! Definitely one I feel would be great for teens to read too, especially with the bullying and such. :)

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  2. I definitely agree that this book is something special. Some books just seem to have a magic about them that keeps us reading and Eleanor and Park was one of those in my mind.

    Also gym suits sound awful! We just had a uniform of shirt and shorts (my sister's school let them choose their own clothes!)

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    1. I have a vague memory of them one year. They were polyester and zipped up the front. Horrible!!

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  3. YES! So happy you loved this book as much:) It absolutely captures all those feelings of first love like you mentioned, yet E & P have such an INTENSE connection at the same time. It almost feels like a more mature romance.

    Love the home-perms-in-the garage reference:)

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  4. I want to read this book NOW. I wanted to read it before, but after your review, I want to read it that much more. I think I'll DL the audio and it'll be my listen after I finish TFiOS. I've been in an emotionally trying, contemporary kind of mood lately. I've been a little depressed recently, and these seem to be the only books that are resonating with me right now. TFiOS seems to be helping my mood for now, though. :)

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    1. Aw…. sorry to hear that. But this is a great realistic YA -- I won't call it contemporary since it is set in a time when many of my blog readers weren't even born!

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  5. Great review! I really enjoyed this one as well. It was a really nice break from the fast-paced, in your face writing some YA books have but it was still emotional. I also liked that Eleanor and Park were not typical YA romantic leads. This books was great. And like you said, "Beautifully subtle." I hope more people will read it!

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  6. I really need to get to this one!! I am horribly behind on reading. I know I will love this!! It sounds realistic and wonderful!!

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  7. I liked this book, too! It was a lot different than I was expecting, but I loved the feelings of first loves ... AND I really loved how different the two characters were.

    Great review, Jen!

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    1. It was a lot darker than I thought -- I just assumed it would be a love story.

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  8. How has this not been on my radar until now. I really dig reading books with family drama and the issue of bullying and outcasts is an important theme as any.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  9. I've been super excited about this since I first saw Rainbow talking about it on her fb page last year ... I read - and LOVED - Attachments, and had high hopes for this YA novel. The reviews I've been seeing this week just make me wanna read it so much more! :o)

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  10. This sounds really good actually. I will definitely have to check it out. I didn't realize it was gritty contemp, I thought it was just a love story. And I don't think anyone totally fits in in high school.

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    1. Nope -- there is a LOT of grit there too.
      And yes, but you don't realize that until after high school :)

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  11. Wasn't swayed by the cover of this one but your review makes it sound good! :)

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  12. you are so right! the romance is so different from others.. definitely the awkwardness of first love and two independent and lonely people.. I just loved this book sooo much!! reminds me of my childhood

    great review,
    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

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  13. Hmm. This book seems really cute! And I think that it's funny that you said it pokes fun at their love-- "Romeo and Juliet endures because people want to remember what it's like to be young and in love." That's quite possibly true, but I never did love Romeo and Juliet...sigh. Lovely review, Jen! (:

    Loves,
    Megan@The Book Babe

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  14. I've been I retested in this book ever since I heard the title a few months ago. Even the name is adorable. I love your review. It leaves me wanting to grab a copy for myself as soon as possible. I'll definitely have to enter the giveaway. Thanks for the heads up about that :)

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

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  15. This is a great review, Jen! Every review of this book I've read has raved about the story. I cannot wait to get my hands on it so that I can meet Eleanor and Park for myself. I love that there is a sweet romance mixed into the heavier themes.

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  16. The adorable cover caught my eyes awhile ago and I immediately added it to my TBR. Sounds like it's going to live up to all my expectations =) Great review!

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  17. Oh this book sounds special. The premise looks promising, sounds like it's really touching. Great review. This seem slike my read.

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  18. Sounds really good. I love it when an author lets some grit into their writing. It helps to make the story feel real. It also sounds like a tough read too. I just feel for kids who grow up in homes like that. I think children deserve better. Thank goodness for those happy escapes.

    Oh, the 80's. Have you bought into wearing colored pants again? I've seen some friends who look cute, but I just can't bring myself to do it! Lol.

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  19. Thanks for the nice review. I didn't think I like this book. I mean, I like contemporary but I need drama and some juicy secrets. LOL

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  20. Hm, I still don't know if this book is for me! I have mixed success with contemporary books and I don't know about the subject. But I love that cover--I've been seeing this book everywhere recently. Thanks for the review.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  21. Jen, I like the approach the author took with this book, that she just let the characters and story unfold, and allowed the reader to form opinions about the issues. Awesome review!

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  22. I am so happy you loved this one too! I agree, this book gets first love exactly right! I adored this book with a passion. Wonderful review! :-)

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