Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on February 26, 2013
Pages: 336
Goodreads |

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

Eleanor & Park is hands down the best YA that I’ve read all year. This may by the best YA that I’ve read ever. It’s certainly on my shortlist for best book I’ve read this year. I stayed up way too late reading it and fell asleep thinking about it. I finished it on an airplane and it took every ounce of willpower I had not to emote all of my feelings to the nice businessman sitting next to me.

Rainbow Rowell captures all the heart and emotions of being a teenager. It brought back so many wonderful, uncomfortable, and downright unpleasant feelings from my time as a teen. Not all books can bring out memories and feelings. I consider them magical when they do. And Eleanor & Park is pure magic.

I love when authors aren’t afraid to shy away from hard topics. The fact of the matter is that some children and teenagers have crappy lives. They experience things so cringe worthy that sometimes people can’t believe it’s real. I’ve had moments like that in my own life and I found solace in books where I could identify with the main character. In Eleanor, Rowell creates a protagonist worthy of all the kids out there who find themselves in unfortunate and tragic circumstances. She’s brave. She’s self-conscious but doesn’t always care. More importantly, she learns that she is worthy of love. That’s a powerful thing for a girl to learn. She’s worthy of love no matter where she comes from, what her economic circumstances are, or what she looks like.

And Park. Oh, Park. He’s the kind of boy I dreamed about when I was a teenager. He’s thoughtful, sensitive, sometimes a jerk but always apologizes for it, and loves with everything he’s got. I also love that he questioned his own sexuality for a minute. He understands that he’s different and doesn’t seem to care. More importantly, I love that he loves Eleanor. It sends an important message in that guys can find girls who aren’t “standard” beauties attractive. He fights for her in a way that no one has ever fought for her before. More importantly, loving Eleanor allows him to be himself. He realizes that it’s OK to be different.

One of my favorite moment’s in the book is the Christmas scene in the grocery story. Park’s mother sees Eleanor with her family and experiences a moment that hits home for her. She, too, comes from a large family and can identify with Eleanor on how hard it is to have enough to go around. In a book full of powerful, moving scenes, this is one of my favorites.

“Nobody gets enough…nobody gets what they need. When you always hungry, you get hungry in your head.”

It’s a scene that stuck with me. I still think about it from time to time even though I finished the book two months ago.

I really can’t say enough positive things about Eleanor & Park. It really captures how hard it is to be a teenager and how equally awesome some of those feelings can be.


© 2014, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

  • Bookworm Brandee

    Omigosh, Jessica. I’ve been wanting to read Eleanor & Park but now I really, really want to. If it can evoke so much emotion from you, it must be an incredible read. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    • JessicaWorkman

      I haven’t read a book that good in a long time. It’s one of those books that you can’t stop thinking about for day/weeks/months after you’ve finished.

  • Pingback: Sunday Post #14 | Tales Between the PagesTales Between the Pages()