Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Young Adult)
This book captured my interest from page one and held it all the way through to the very satisfying end. Eleanor and Park tell the story of their relationship in alternating segments, and their voices are distinct and believable. They each feel like a misfit in their teen-aged world — Park because he’s slightly built and half-Korean in a school full of large white guys, and Eleanor because she’s a chubby, freckled redhead from a terrifyingly dysfunctional family who quickly becomes the target of bullies in her new school.
Eleanor hides shabby second-hand clothes — and what she feels is her embarrassingly full body — beneath loose men’s shirts. At the same time, she flies her freak flag in defiance of everybody around her, decorating her unruly hair with fishing lures and tying men’s neckties around her wrists as accessories. Her home life breaks your heart, but she’s a survivor. She takes on the world when she needs to, but is a realist who also knows when to walk away.
Park is a quiet young man who buries himself in action comics, popular music, and taekwondo. He’s acutely aware of his Asian background, which he believes negatively influences his stature and his facial features, and he does not realize how appealing he really is. His family is strong and his home life secure, and he and Eleanor could not be more different from each other.
The relationship between them develops slowly and carefully, fitting with their personal insecurities. And from the opening page, the reader knows that something is going to eventually keep them physically apart. The journey to find out how it all happens and how they will cope with it has its dark moments but ultimately left me with hope for their individual futures.
Grandma gives Eleanor & Park five stars.
Potty-mouth Index: HIGH but appropriate to character development and storyline.