Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 328 (Hardback)
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One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
I think this goes without saying, but I love Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor is a teenager who struggles to fit in at school and at home where she's targeting by her abusive step-father. She walks tries to disappear at school when the kids call her names and she walks on egg shells because she fears being separated from her mom and siblings. Park is a mixed race kid in a more stable home situation. He doesn't quite fit in at school but he's much better at faking it. After he realizes that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder, a sweet relationship slowly blossoms.
I loved this book. I love that Eleanor and Park's relationship grew slowly and it felt real. The characters are complex and the setting feels real. I don't usually read YA books set in high school but because it is set in the 80s anyone could identify with these characters. It was a darker read than I expected as both kids dealt with some very real issues. I was surprised at the ending as everything wasn't tied in a pretty little bow but I was satisfied at its realism.