Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: Review

Rainbow Rowell Read-a-Thon
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 2013
Length: 328
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: Rainbow Rowell Read-a-Thon

From GoodReads:

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND 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.
On Eleanor's first day of school, she desperately needs to find a seat on the bus. Because Eleanor doesn't look like a cool kid, no one wants to share his/her seat with her. Although Park loves having a seat all to himself on the bus, he feels bad for Eleanor and lets her share his seat. Over the course of the school year, Eleanor and Park continue to sit next to each other and feelings of friendship, and later love, develop over sharing their love of comics and music. Eleanor and Park share almost everything with each other. Although Eleanor cares greatly for Park, she can't tell him what her home life is like.
When I started reading this book, I thought this was going to be a simple YA love story. Based on the GoodReads blurb, I figured that the two characters would grow apart or something but that would be the extent of the story. I was really wrong. This is a story about two teenagers falling in love even though they are not necessarily prom king and queen material. However, this is also a story about a lot of heavy issues including racism, poverty, and domestic violence. I really was not expecting this at all. In regards to Park, he is Asian and experiences varying levels of racism from his classmates and others. This storyline is fairly minor, but it is touched upon in a very thought out way. In regards to Eleanor, her step-father is an alcoholic and hits Eleanor's mother at times. Eleanor's family is also quite poor. Eleanor's home life issues were central to how Eleanor and Park navigated their budding relationship. Although I though this was discussed in a genuine and thoughtful way, if domestic violence is a trigger for you, this may not be a book for you. 
I was really impressed with how Rainbow Rowell navigated heavy topics such as domestic violence and racism in a YA romance without feeling like it was over the top. I feel like a lot of books will add in a bit of domestic violence to make the book feel unique or gritty. Rowell does a great job of discussing this heavy topic without having it feel like an after school special or gratuitous. This was a heavy book that I probably would have been more hesitant to read, if I knew what the book was about; however, I am really glad that I read this book, because it was really good. I could not put it down.
I don't think I can say enough positive things about this book. The characters were well written and were consistent within themselves. Also, I thought that they felt like genuine teenagers; they did not feel wise beyond their years like can sometimes happen in YA books. Like I mentioned earlier, the social issues in the book were done in a respectful way. Also, I feel that this book could be used to discuss issues like domestic violence and poverty with teenagers. Finally, I thought that the romance between Eleanor and Park and their story in general felt honest and real. It did not seem over the top. 
This was such a wonderful book. I give this book a 5 out of 5.
5 cats


Charnell @ Reviews from a Bookworm said...
December 27, 2013 at 5:47 PM

This review has made me even more sure that I NEED to read some Rainbow Rowell. This sounds like a book I would really love and will definitely be getting to it soon. Especially since you said the romance isn't over the top and feels real, the perfect kind. Great review :)

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
December 27, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Wonderful review I love that this touched on hard, sensitive subjects and didn't gloss over them.

Angela's Anxious Life said...
December 29, 2013 at 8:26 PM

I too thought this book was going to be fluff YA. I was pretty surprised at how the book ended up turning out. Very deep. I like this style of YA books... more serious and doesn't make the reader feel like a middle school reader.

Tressa @ Wishful Endings said...
December 29, 2013 at 10:56 PM

This was a good book. It wasn't really my type of book, but it definitely didn't gloss over anything and I loved how its imperfections (not a sweet fairy tale story where everything turns out peachy and with perfect characters) made it a perfect story. Great review!

Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

Unknown said...
December 31, 2013 at 11:22 PM

It is a sweet romance. I thought it was going to be sappy like some contemporary romance YA books, but this was not the case with this book. It was sweet.

Unknown said...
December 31, 2013 at 11:22 PM

Rowell did a great job with this book. I didn't feel like I was rubbernecking on someone's misfortune.

Unknown said...
December 31, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Exactly! I really wasn't expecting too much going into this book, and I was blown away. I challenge anyone who thinks YA books are silly to read this book and not change their opinion.

Unknown said...
December 31, 2013 at 11:27 PM

This book is definitely not for everyone. I don't think I would have picked it up, if I knew what the book was about.

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