READ THIS! ELEANOR + PARK
By Rainbow Rowell
I’ve mentioned this before, but since most of the US (and Japan) is in the midst of a frozen Polar Vortex, I’m thinking a few of you might be looking for a good book. Ding ding! I’ve got one.
A few keywords.
THE 1980s. Protagonist with red curly hair. Cross-cultural relationships. Comic books. Walkmans.
And maybe it’s because I too have big, curly red hair and spent some time in Asia (at one point I had a crush on a science teacher that I would call Earth Science-sensei) and had a deep love for my walkmans as a child of the 80s – but this book touched my heart.
I haven’t done a lot of reading compared to other years, save for some New Adult iPad smut which I really should write about sometime except they are usually so stupid and embarrassing, but after a year sans English bookstores I really wanted to buy a real book with real pages and I wanted my friends to also read it, so you know, we could talk about it together. I heard some amazing things about Eleanor + Park, so I placed my bets on THAT book and blindly bought four copies at Barnes & Noble to take to my friends in Louisiana during the fall. [NOTE: I’m sure even the clerk thought, “Why isn’t she buying these online?” But I was impatient and also just wanted to relish in being in a two-story bookstore where I could read 99 percent of the items in it.]
When I had flight delays because of fog flying from Vermont to DC and had to take a detour to Texas en route to New Orleans, I was glad that I had placed my bets on this book!
The book alternates chapters between Eleanor and Park, two teens attending the same high school in Nebraska in the late 1980s. At first we don’t know much about Eleanor, other than she is on the bus to a new school, has big red hair, is a little larger than other high school girls, wears unusual clothes, and NO ONE wants to let her sit with them.
Park begrudgingly scoots over and lets her sit next to him.
Eventually she starts reading over his shoulder at his comic books.
Eventually they become friends.
Eventually they become more than friends.
And then eventually life outside their mini-cocoon on the bus seat catches up with them. Eleanor comes from one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever read about (think Glass Castle kind of crazy). I texted my friends numerous times how furious her mother made me. Park has some of the coolest parents ever, but it’s not always so carefree. He’s learning how to define his own identity, even it that means it upsets his dad or scribbles outside the defined social lines of high school.
LOVE FACTOR: 9/10
HOT! This story about first love – which isn’t an easy ride, especially since it’s pre-cell phone days and dealing with abusive families and multi-cultural relationships and school bullies – is written so f*cking well that you won’t want to move from your chair/bar stool/bed until you finish it out. WELL DONE RAINBOW ROWELL.
“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
No trilogy or on-going series here. It’s a stand-alone book, but I am excited to read more from Rainbow Rowell. I hear good things about Fangirl.
P.S. My friend Liz tells me I must read Jellicoe Road next.
P.P.S. Want a super-easy, super-sexy, super-smutty winter read? Full of internet porn revenge bullying and hot phone sex? I just finished this.