Eleanor and Park, written by Rainbow Rowell, is the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love, connected by nothing more than a seat on the bus, comic books, and a few records. The story was told simply, but it was enough to break my heart.
So yeah, I guess you could say I liked the book.
The characters are introduced as two normal, nothing-to-do-with-each-other people who are forced to sit next to each other on the bus (if you’ve ever been on a bus during rush hour, you can probably relate).
Due to cultural differences, conflicts with his father, and just growing up, Park is experiencing typical teen angst when he meets Eleanor, whose hatred-filled stepdad, family struggles, and bullying at school are causing her problems of her own. Somehow, the two find a place within each other to call home.
Park is a Korean-American boy (although beware, Koreans: the Korean language used in here is pretty inaccurate) who proves to be one of the sweetest boys in the fictional world. Being a hopeless romantic for fictional boys, both on screen and on paper, I found myself falling in love with this character more and more as I discovered his caring, understanding, protective and strong-willed nature. He’s everything you want in a male lead and more–he shows enough of vulnerability, immaturity, and awkward adolescent moments to keep the character from becoming dangerously cheesy (I’d rather have a relatable protagonist, as opposed to a Cheeto). He’s wonderfully flawed, but so is Eleanor, and they fit together like two puzzle pieces.
“She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Eleanor doesn’t seem like the typical female lead. With messy and curly red hair, freckles covering her face, and a couple extra pounds on her body, she makes few friends at school and is constantly laughed at. Park is repelled (okay, repelled is a strong word. Maybe just… unattracted?) by her in the first few days they have to ride the bus together. But, after a few shared comic books and Rolling Stones records, she finds a friend in Park…and then more than that. However, Eleanor has never really felt accepted, even in her own home. Her problems with her stepdad cause her family life to spiral out of control. And the result? Me bawling my eyes out at the wee hours of the morning when I’m supposed to be asleep. Although you may not necessarily become the emotional wreck that I was, her story will put a lump in your throat.
In conclusion, Eleanor and Park are two people whose stories are worth getting to know. Maybe even sitting with on the bus and seeing what comic books and records they have to share. Not too light and fluffy but not too depressing, this book will be a pleasure for all realistic fiction seekers.
“He kept making her feel like it was safe to smile.”