In 1986, no one is crazy enough to try to make first love last in high school , but Eleanor and Park try anyways. Their love isn’t fast and fleeting, but begins over shared moments of routine.
It isn’t a storm that pulls them under. It blossoms and blooms slowly.
Set over the course of one school year, Eleanor and Park’s love is sweet and fearless. It helps Eleanor live through her complicated family life, gives her something to look forward to daily. It makes Park brave, helps him stand up for himself and what he believes in.
But is it strong enough to sustain them?
So trying to describe this book in a few brief sentences is tricky. Trying to describe the plot is tricky, since it isn’t really found in a linear movement from Point A to Point B, but can be found in the sweet moments that the two protagonists of this novel share.
I wish I could describe this book as sweet, but that doesn’t justify it. It has its dark moments and deals with real issues, like bullying, self-esteem, and fear of rape.
If I do use the word sweet anywhere in this review, it would have to be to describe Eleanor and Park’s relationship. What I appreciated about their relationship is that it isn’t insta-love. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of insta-love. When Park first sees new-girl Eleanor on his bus, he isn’t smitten right away. He doesn’t describe her very kindly, and it’s only until she sits beside him everyday (and reads his comics over his shoulder), do they build a silent relationship.
The build-up of their relationship, which is slow and sweet, is where Eleanor and Park really shines. The first time Eleanor and Park hold hands is pretty amazing. So many YA books (and adult books as well) build up the first kiss so much that you don’t really get to enjoy the other aspects of the relationship, but when Rowell describes them holding hands, your heart pretty much explodes.
Like I mentioned, Eleanor and Park isn’t a completely innocent book only about love. There are some very real issues discussed in this novel. One of the issues is about self-esteem, and how Eleanor feels about the way she looks. Unlike so many other YA heroines, Eleanor is a very real girl. Eleanor is bullied because of her weight, because of the way she dresses, because she is easy to pick on. All of these issues are very real and helped ground the story. No relationship exists in a vacuum, and I appreciated the fact that Eleanor and Park’s relationship coincided with everything else happening in their lives.
With that being said, Eleanor and Park wasn’t perfect. The ending left me wanting more, which I think was the point. I can’t really pinpoint what made me feel slightly disappointed when I put it down, but maybe it was just that I was expecting more.
Eleanor and Park isn’t your typical YA boy-meets-girl story, so for that: 3.5/5.
Thanks for reading,