Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis: 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.

Pages: 325

Rating: 8/10

Overall: On the face of it, Eleanor & Park is a love story set in the mid-80s, and to be honest, that is the heart of it as well. Nostalgia runs rife alongside overflowing cuteness.
Eleanor & Park

When the story opens, Eleanor is just starting a new school, which is daunting at the best of times. Not least, when the first encounter with your peers is on the school bus where everyone has already got their territories all marked up. Her unconventional look sets her apart right from the start. Park, a quiet Korean boy, uncharacteristically, is rather rude to Eleanor while offering her a face-saving seat. So begins a tentative, life-changing and endlessly cute relationship.

This book has been picking up speed on GoodReads and such, and I can definitely see why. The relationship between Eleanor and Park is almost excruciatingly slow but fits exactly with the fact that this is a brand new thing for both of them. While Park has kissed someone before Eleanor, he's never kissed someone like he kisses Eleanor. Every touch is charting unknown territory with a pinch of embarrassment thrown in.
Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.
I thought the alternating POVs added to the wonder and often confusion they both felt. Seeing both of their thoughts helps

Park is enamoured with Eleanor almost immediately. Eleanor, on the other hand, can't see why he's even interested in her at all when she's all pudgy and dresses weird (in her own eyes). Park sees past the tough shell and provides a rock in her turbulent home life. At home, she deals with an abusive stepfather, subservient mother and sharing a room with her four other siblings. With Park, she can spend her spare time in a loving, almost carefree environment.
It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world wasn't what she'd thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.
Eventually, something has to give in her home life, which gives us the story's conflict. To be perfectly honest, my favourite part of the book was the slow, hesitant start of Eleanor and Park's relationship but the dilemma faced by Eleanor in the last third of the book does give the story direction. Also some might say the ending is unsatisfying, but I found it hopeful without the need to spell everything out.

The contrast of Park's home life and upbringing to Eleanor's broken home is almost subtle, I suppose. It doesn't overwhelm with how much Eleanor's life sucks or Eleanor constantly being in a state of jealousy about Park's waterbed. It causes issues of course, but it isn't constantly brought up as something that would cause a rift between Park and Eleanor. As is fitting for teenagers, Eleanor's 'lack of experience' causes more of an issue in their relationship than their personal living situations.

Throughout E&P, there is a strong sense of nostalgia that their story elicits from you. From lost first loves to making mixtapes. I felt warm reading about their innocent view on love and life, even though, in different ways they weren't innocent.

E&P is a quick and delightful read. Perfect for anyone who wants to relive their high school sweetheart or first love. I don't know about you, but I wish I'd had a first love like Park...

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