Welcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.
This week we’re discussing Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and, in Eleanor’s eyes, impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixed tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is funny, sad, shocking and true — an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.- Google Books
Let’s get this out in the open right now: There is no possible way I can review this adorable, sweet, funny, adorable (did I already say that? Sorry.) book without totally drooling over it. Nevermind that I’m a child of the eighties, so the music and the television and movie references felt muy authentico, it was Eleanor and Park–those two beautiful misfits–who drew me in.
Eleanor is new in town, returning home to her mom and younger siblings after being kicked out for over a year by her overbearing, verbally abusive drunk of a stepfather. While she’d like to just fade into the backdrop, it’s just not possible. Not with her flaming red hair, her sarcasm, or her flair for dressing a bit odd. In fact, from day one Eleanor is pretty much a target on the school bus, the popular kids making life miserable for her because she seems to go against the grain.
Park, on the other hand, isn’t really bothered by anyone. He’s cute enough, popular enough and he gets by. He feels awkward being the only Korean kid in town (other than his little brother), and he knows his ex-military dad isn’t crazy about the fact that he’d rather read comic and listen to music than be a typical guy’s guy, but overall he’s OK.
Eleanor and Park’s relationship begins on the bus. Park doesn’t mind letting the new girl sit next to him. He doesn’t mind that she reads his comic books over his shoulder, or that she prefers not to say anything. He even starts bringing comics for her to borrow. And then he starts sharing his favorite music–something we all know can be so sacred, like sharing a part of your soul–and without realizing it, with barely a word spoken between them during the school day, they both come to look forward to these moments on the bus. They begin to look forward to seeing each other.
This book is all about the relationship forged between Eleanor and Park. It is a slow process, growing sweetly and naturally, with all of the great awkward silences and unspoken feelings that you know are just bubbling under the surface, but haven’t quite come out. Their friendship alone is absolutely adorable, but when it evolves into a romance is pretty heavenly. Their main problem is that, as we know, love doesn’t always last and in the case of these two the odds are seriously stacked against them. Forget the fact that most of the school sees them as an odd pairing. Eleanor’s stepfather would level her if he found out she had a boyfriend. She pays hefty price on a daily basis just for breathing, and he would not take kindly to her rebelling against his rules.
In all truth, this book is divine. Rowell has built a gritty, sad world for Eleanor and it isn’t always easy to swallow, yet in comes Park with his bright optimism, not as her knight in shining armor but as her partner, her friend, someone who sees her for the intensely bright, strong person she is, and he gives her hope. He shows her a kind of devotion she’s never experienced (and she gives it right back with a healthy measure of her awesomely grumpy sarcasm). As their relationship develops it flows with poignancy and realism, but there is also such contentment and happiness. It feels completely authentic because of the way it develops.
I loved the idea of two misfits coming together, but it was this safe, wonderful place they carved out, their funny discussions, and this vibrancy they seemed to only find in each other that really made this book for me. I loved it.
Crush Intensity: 5/5 I can’t say it enough. Read this book!
The Perfect Quote:
There are so, so many great parts. So many cute moments. This one (which I saw on Goodreads, of all things) really gives you a glimpse into Eleanor and Park’s relationship:
“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 sixteen.”
“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.”
Please check out my blogging partners as they explore Eleanor and Park even further:
The Book Addict’s Guide- The Music of Eleanor and Park
Gone Pecan-Casting Call
The Grown Up YA- Roundtable Discussion
Teen Lit Rocks- Author Q&A
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Eleanor and Park! I loved it. I think we all did.