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A Book Review of “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

Author:

Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

The paperback edition of Eleanor & Park came out in 2012, and since then, it’s amassed countless followers, loads of fan art, and even a few awards. The Boston Globe and The Horn Book Magazine, after presenting author Rainbow Rowell with the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction, called the book “an honest, heart-wrenching portrayal of imperfect but unforgettable love,” and NPR said it “captures the pure, visceral thrill of a high school swoon, but it never forgets that those feelings are real and important.” The book now has many different versions, including an exclusive collector’s edition complete with four pieces of fan art adorning the inside covers and a special author Q&A in the back.

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

Plot Summary

It’s 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska, and a bus full of crazy, cussing high school students is about to be the death of new student Eleanor Douglas. Eleanor is red-haired, chubby, and freckled—and worse, she has nowhere to sit. But as the students get angrier, demanding she sit down somewhere, Eleanor makes a decision that will change her life forever: she plops down next to Park.

Over the next few weeks, a shared ignorance of each other becomes a shared respect—first it happens in silence, and then they speak more and more, exchanging comics, music, and discreet physical contact from the back seat of the bus. And gradually, though Eleanor seemed strange to Park at first, and though his friends don’t like her much, their love blooms.

But all isn’t well because Park’s mother doesn’t like Eleanor, and Eleanor’s stepfather might as well be the devil himself. He’s abusive and a drunk, and he won't let Eleanor visit a friend after school, let alone a boyfriend. When her stepfather’s anger finally explodes, what will happen to Eleanor and Park? More importantly, what will happen to the connection that they desperately promised—like so many high school lovers do—would never burn out?

Quick Facts

  • Author: Rainbow Rowell
  • Pages: 333
  • Genre: Young adult, contemporary romance
  • Ratings: 4.1/5 Goodreads, 5/5 Common Sense Media
  • Release date: April 2012
  • Publisher: Orion Books

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if . . .

  • you’re a new or seasoned young adult reader or even an adult looking for a heartwarming romance that’s reminiscent of the greatest YA authors (John Green, Jandy Nelson, Sarah Dessen, etc.).
  • you’re mature and can handle some sexual phrases and curse words.
  • you’d like to remember your first love and what it was like to be starstruck by someone.
  • you’ve ever had issues with family or stepparents.
  • books with depth, passion, and meaning are your preferred reading material.

She never looked nice, she looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

— Rainbow Rowell, "Eleanor & Park"

Reviews

  • “. . . I have never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park. Rainbow Rowell’s first novel for young adults is a beautiful, haunting love story—but I have seen those. It’s set in 1986, and God knows I’ve seen that. There’s bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent—and I know, we’ve seen all this stuff. But you’ve never seen Eleanor & Park. Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.” —The New York Times
  • Eleanor and Park is a beautifully crafted masterpiece of a book. Rainbow Rowell has truly outdone herself and in my opinion this is her best writing so far.” —The Guardian
Rainbow Rowell, the book’s author

Rainbow Rowell, the book’s author

The Takeaway

I’m usually not one to insist on readers picking up a book I like, but honestly, if you’ve got some spare time on your hands, read Eleanor & Park. Browsing through reviews of the novel, it’s clear that nearly everyone who’s read it is glad they did. The story is beautiful, genuine, and heartbreaking.

Even though Eleanor & Park largely centers around one topic—yep; Eleanor and Park—it never manages to become boring, and there’s always some gorgeous piece of language to pick out from the lovely way Rowell tells the tale.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Comments

Rose McCoy (author) from West Virginia on September 19, 2020:

Thanks Literarycreature! I also noticed that your profile picture is “The Book Thief”—another excellent read! :)

Literarycreature from Argentina on September 18, 2020:

I love this book. My English teacher lend it to me when I was in highschool, and I read it during a summer. I would just add to what you said that it is a wonderful book for the ones learning the English lenguage, as it is quite easy to read and the plot and characters are beautiful.