2012, 336 pgs
Purchased Amazon UK
Book Summary from Goodreads
"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."
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
This won’t be published in the US until early 2013, but I decided I couldn’t wait and had it shipped from Amazon UK– TOTALLY worth it. I’ve been antsy for Rowell’s second book since finishing Attachments.
First off I want to make sure fans of Attachments know – this isn’t the same kind of book. Eleanor & Park still has amazingly realistic / entertaining conversations and well developed characters that make you love them and feel for them, but their lives are much harder than those in Attachments – my heart hurt for both of them at times.
Eleanor and Park meet on the school bus. Eleanor is the weird new girl dressed in ripped jeans with safety pins, or scarves and ties. She’s stocky/chubby with RED hair. Park is the short half Korean boy who lets her sit next to him when no one else will, but resents the intrusion. Over time they end up bonding over comics and music.
Their relationship doesn’t start overnight, but once it does it has intensity of first love. And it pulls the reader into it so you’re feeling all the same yearning and hope and sorrow that Eleanor and Park do. I’ve rarely felt as invested in a fictional relationship as this one, but the whole time had a sense of foreboding because of their age and family situations (and the Romeo and Juliet reference). It just didn’t feel like there was a way for it to work out. But I’ll also say I did not see the ending coming and it really was perfect for the story.
This next part is on the edge of spoiler so you'll have to highlight if you want to read it.
One of my favorite life lesson’s I learned on an airplane – “Secure your oxygen mask, before assisting others”. You can’t help others out of a bad situation if you are still in that situation and I feel like a lot of books/movies have characters who do just that. It’s a dangerous message that leads to people staying in bad situations because of sibling or friend. This book doesn’t do that and I think so people will criticize the character for it, but it’s the right thing to do IMO.
Couple random points that I loved.
I love that Rowell puts her books (so far) at least a decade back. It a great way to be able to include pop culture without worrying about a book being dated. Once you're a decade out you know which references will still resonate vs those that no one will remember.
Like Attachments, it takes place in Omaha, NE (where I live) so there are local references that were fun for me to remember. There's a mention of Sweet 98 the Top 40 station in Omaha when I was in high school. They've since changed formats, but it was a fun quick flashback for me. Plus I recognize a lot of the places mentioned in the book. Although I definitely grew up in the more affluent "West Omaha" area. It was a good reminder for me that not everyone in my town is comfortable.
9 out of 10 stars