Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park tells the story of two star crossed misfits discovering first love while trying to survive the fraught reality of high school hierarchy, poverty, and family drama.  Set in 1986 in Omaha, Eleanor Douglas has recently returned home after being kicked out for a year by her abusive stepfather and passive mother.  Her first day on the bus is predictable – she’s instantly ostracized by her peers for being too heavy, for having wild red hair, for her oversized Goodwill clothes.  Only one student is willing (if reluctantly) to offer her a seat: Park Sheridan.

Park lives his life on the edges of popularity – liked just enough to be ignored by those in search of a target.  The last thing he wants is the kind of attention Eleanor would draw to his undisturbed world.  Even so, he halfheartedly offers Eleanor a seat on the bus.  When he catches her secretly reading his comics over his shoulder, he finds himself slowly sharing his precious comics and, later, his music with her.  They find kindred spirits in one another and, before they realize it, their bond blossoms into something deeper.  The closer they become, the more they struggle to find a way to stay together in the midst of more than one seemingly insurmountable life obstacle.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while – teens and adults alike will easily relate to this story.  It is beautifully written, and Rowell does an exceptional job of capturing the romance and (often harsh) qualities of life and love.  Her characters and their stories will break your heart and make you hope in equal measure, and she doesn’t shy away from the difficult realities of poverty or adolescence.  All in all, it was a wonderful and engaging read.  This is my first Rainbow Rowell book, but it’s not likely to be my last.  I highly recommend it!

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