Book Review: Eleanor and Park

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

Samantha Burgio

Eleanor and Park is a realistic fiction novel by Rainbow Rowell. This work was published in 2013 by St. Martin’s Press.  Rainbow Rowell has published other works such as Attachments in 2011, Fangirl in 2013, Landline in 2014, Carry on in 2015, and the most recent, Kindred Spirits in 2016. The novel revolves around two teenagers, Eleanor and Park, who fall in love but try to deny their feelings. The two take a remarkable journey. The central idea has to do with how love can change a person in all sorts of ways.

Eleanor is described as a heavy- set, curly-haired redhead who remains rather quiet around others. She stays quiet because of her uncommunicative home situation; where her stepfather is aggressive towards her mother and her siblings. She meets Park on the bus when she comes to his school, where he comes off a bit rude. Park is quite laid back, but a little less so around his friends. He’s Korean and has long, dark hair. His personality fits well with Eleanor but he doesn’t know it yet. He tries to keep his personal life more to himself, but grows to care about Eleanor.

In the opening of the novel, Eleanor, in tenth grade, is boarding the school bus that will take her to her new school. She’s very nervous because she doesn’t know anything about this town. While trying to find a seat in the back, she runs into Park and his friends, who are spread out across the whole back of the bus, leaving no extra room. She gets yelled at by the driver to find a seat and panics in the aisle. Finally, a grumpy Park moves in his seat.  This is where their journey begins. This book has a simple purpose; to show that these two different teenagers can learn to realize their love for one another despite their differences. The author also addresses issues such as poverty, appearance, esteem, and abuse. At the same time, they have to try to figure themselves out. The story is quite inspirational and is realistically written to be relatable to teenagers today. One quote from Eleanor is:  “I’ve never been able to say this to anyone before, Park. I love you.”

Compared to other novels that Rainbow Rowell has written, Eleanor and Park seems to be the most well-known besides Fangirl. I personally have only read Fangirl and Eleanor and Park; and I believe that Eleanor and Park is the better read. One addresses Fangirl drama in college, and the other addresses stubborn romance in high school. Rainbow Rowell does address romance as a whole in some of her novels, but also covers very different storylines. She is good at describing moving the story forward with intriguing characterization of Eleanor and Park. This, for example, is shown when they meet with one another’s families. Doing so helps them to explore the differences of their backgrounds.

This novel has received a Michael L. Printz Award in 2014 and a Goodreads Choice Best Young Adult Fiction Award in 2016. I highly recommend this book to teenage girls and guys who like romance, but not the clingy and overbearing type.