The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

February 14, 2014

Book review: Rainbow Rowell paints perfect love story

NORMAN — Book: Eleanor & Park (2013, St. Martin’s Press)

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Why you should read: After 11 weeks of gracing the NY Times Best Seller list for young adult novels, “Eleanor & Park” currently rests at No. 8 on the charts. With its gritty and realistic nature, the popularity of this book is well deserved, to say the least. “Eleanor & Park” brings back memories of what it’s like to be young, in high school, while having to deal with the pressures the universe can bring upon a young body. Rowell delivers a powerful and profound love story geared toward young readers, but it can be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age.

Set in 1986, this story begins by introducing Park, a half-Korean kid who is pretty well accepted by his peers. However, his love of comic books and music is just enough to keep him separated from stardom. On the first day of school, new girl Eleanor arrives, a chunky red-haired girl who dresses funny and is immediately labeled an outcast when she climbs aboard the school bus. When Park sees how everyone is treating her, he (not-so-nicely) tells her to sit next to him, and they begin a silent bus-seat acquaintanceship. As the days go by, Eleanor takes to “eavesreading” Park’s comics over his shoulder, though neither says a word to the other. Soon after, they’re bonding over music and after that, the hand-holding starts, and the developing relationship is a pleasure to read.

Rowell brings true life and real emotion to her story. There is no sugarcoating the fact that Eleanor is poor, living in a small house and sharing a room with several siblings, while also constantly fearing her alcoholic stepfather. Her descriptions are spot on and true to each character, and they are much appreciated. Eleanor and Park’s relationship takes on the ultimate fate for love — battling the world’s obstacles. Though this is a story that has certainly been written many times before, “Eleanor & Park” is a novel that sits well apart from those like it.

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