“What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away? The math seemed impossible.”
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.
The story takes place in 1986. Eleanor Douglas a sixteen year old red head girl just moved in a new town. When she first ride the school bus going to class one morning, everyone is looking at her like she is a loser that everyone should avoid. But Park Sheridan with his inner kindness can’t afford long enough to pretend he didn’t care, so he offers Eleanor an empty seat next to him. Everyday going to school Eleanor and Park sit side by side but never say a word nor look at each other. Park just want to be unnoticed not only to Eleanor but to everyone, because he don’t want to be a target of those who have the upper-hand in their school. He is happily contented being alone. So everyday he sits on the same sit, with headset in both ears and reading materials in front of him. Then Eleanor begins reading Park’s comic books over his shoulder or through sideways and downcast glances which Park noticed eventually. And as expected of Park, a guy with good nature he offers his comics to Eleanor. He even start bringing her new comics everyday and allowing her to take those comics home. Gradually they start talking with each others about comics, then music and mixed tapes and other things.
Rainbow Rowell weaved a realistic characters in Eleanor and Park. She captures their thoughts and emotions perceptively and put them in paper, making them as real as they can be. It feels that she know both characters very well, like she is writing not only from their point of views but also as if she is channeling their thoughts and feelings directly and poured them into paper.
Even I don’t have anything in common with her characters except me being an Asian like Park, I still can relate to them easily. I can feel their struggle to belong or at least to find someone who will make them feel that they are not alone. I feel Eleanor’s daily struggle at home, her terrifying condition every time she’ll see her step father and their grueling condition. I also feel Park’s frustration because of his father. The feeling of never been good enough in his father’s eyes. I feel Eleanor and Park deeply and I root for them, wanting to find their happiness in the end.
Besides with Eleanor and Park love story this book is also an honest novel that shows real life issues. Rainbow Rowell laid out sensitive topics without exaggerating or minimizing them. Eleanor family life is painful to read with its chaotic flow but it is never overstep the boundary of being real which makes it more achingly heartbreaking. I feel like even if I didn’t know Eleanor family background, her abusive father, or know her everyday life at home I can still feel sorry for Eleanor just by merely seeing her with her mismatch clothes everyday. If I can ask my parents to adopt her I think I will. I want to show her the other side of life, that not everything is worst or painful for her. I think she really deserve a happy and peaceful life.
“If you can’t save your own life, is it even worth saving?”
But in-spite of Eleanor’s chaotic and dramatic life, or she and Park being outcast this book is not an heavy read. With Rainbow Rowell‘s writing style and witty dialogue she managed to balance the story all through out. The book is fun, insightful, and heartfelt that you can help but get glued to it from start to end.
Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Overall, Eleanor & Park is both heartbreaking and hopeful novel that is filled with uniquely fascinating characters who will surely touch your heart. Rainbow Rowell perfectly captures and framed an emotional and realistic story of two teenagers’ first love with all its bits and pieces. Eleanor & Park will surely remind you how sweet, intense and especial to be in love for the first time.