Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell
325 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 26th 2013
Source: Library
Add this book on Goodreads

Two misfits.

One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough... Eleanor.

Park... he knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat that makes her want to keep promises... Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was suposed to make you feel something.
- Eleanor and Park, pg 165

If there was one word I would use to describe Eleanor and Park it would be bittersweet. This story is absolutely heartbreaking, beautiful, and just plain cute. Rainbow Rowell definitely tears out your heart, rips it into a million little pieces, and then tries to put it all back together again.

Eleanor is different. She's big and bold, but not in the way that earns her a lot of admirers. Park on the other hand tries to blend in, but stands out thanks to his mixed race heritage. Both are misfits, and both are perfect for each other.

Eleanor and Park is a love story. There really isn't much more to it, but even so I enjoyed it and it's minimalistic plot. In a sea of insta-love stories, Eleanor and Park stands out because the romance grows so organically. Through comic books and mix tapes, phone calls and family dinners their relationship slowly comes together and forms something beautiful. It feels real, and that's what makes this story so strong.

Eleanor and Park themselves were both fantastic characters and I loved getting to delve into who they were and what made them tick. Rainbow Rowell did an outstanding job creating these two. They're funny, insightful, and just so human. They have quirks and personality and feel like real people, not just words on a page. Oh and Park is half Korean so he's a total winner in my book. Lucky girl that Eleanor. ;)

One really unique and interesting aspect of this novel is the fact that it's set in 1986. For readers who are 80's kids this will totally bring back the nostalgia of their youth, but for the rest of us it's sort of a crazy time warp, back into a world that wasn't too long ago and yet feels almost completely alien. Cassette tapes? Calling someone on their home phone? No internet? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!?! One of the most interesting aspects of Eleanor and Park is that even though technology changes, people and relationships don't. Some elements of Eleanor and Park may not be relatable to a younger crowd, but we can still read and enjoy the story because there are certain universal human experiences such as love and friendship that remain the same regardless of the era.

Overall I really liked Eleanor and Park. I must admit that I didn't connect with the story or characters quite as much as I wanted to (maybe because I'm not an 80's kid?) but I still loved it and I think everyone should give it a read. It's a sweet and insightful romance that will touch even the most pessimistic of readers *cough* like me *cough*.

Oh and funny story, for some crazy reason I totally thought that Rainbow Rowell was a boy. Maybe it was because a lot of reviews kept comparing Eleanor and Park to John Green novels, but regardless when I discovered the author was actually a girl I was in total shock. Basically the books back cover fell open to reveal Rainbow Rowell's picture and my face was like this:

Awkward but true.

Sorry Rainbow Rowell. :P

Julia :)


  1. Bahaha, it's funny you assumed she was a boy. Such a cool name. But yeah anyways, I'm glad you liked this! It feels like I'm in a minority of people who hasn't read this yet. But I will and I think I will really love it, despite not being able to relate to the setting either. I'm all for sweet, non-instalove romance though so I know that aspect will be a win for me. I'm really excited to read Fangirl, as well! Anyways, hilarious review!

  2. LOL how I love author misconceptions. ;) Anyways, I'm glad you were able to love this one so much! I actually JUST finished this one up, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. It's definitely heart-breaking, and I loved how the romance really takes some time to build-up. I'm also not an 80s kid, so I was just like :O to some of the technological aspects then. How could you ever live without the beauty that is the Internet?! *dies* Haha, us 90's kids. ;) Anyways, yay for enjoying this book!

    Lovely review, Julia! <3

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

  3. LOL, I'm so glad I wasn't the only one who thought at first that Rainbow Rowell was a guy! Like you I think it may have been at least partly due to all the John Green comparisons, and then I saw a picture of her and I did a double-take XD So don't feel bad! :D

    I have her adult book Attachments sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read, and I've heard good things about it so I'm looking forward to checking it out!

  4. Absolutely love the quote you picked out! And ahah, totally get how that could of happened about the author confusion.
    I have to agree though that as much as I liked it I didn't all the way love it. Maybe it was the time thing that I couldn't connect to, but still loved how realistic it felt.

  5. This is SUCH a fantastic book!!! I'm not a huge fangirl of Rainbow Rowell (and I did know a boy named Rainbow growing up so I get that whole mix-up!).

    1. OOPS!! That should be SUCH A HUGE FAN! Darn it.

    2. Oh man you actually knew a guy named rainbow growing up? His parents must have been total hippies. >.<

  6. Rainbow is kind of an unfortunate name for a boy!! Haha, that made me laugh! I've heard that John Green's recommended this book to everyone and I trust John Green. I've heard about it before, it looks so good and it's on my tbr pile--which seems to be getting scarily large! Great review :D

    -Tilly @ Hardcore Heroines

    1. John Green's review is why it caught my eye too! He definitely has good taste in books. Hopefully you'll be able to read it eventually, even with the craziness of your TBR pile. Thanks for commenting! :D

  7. This book has definitely had my eye, but I wasn't sure if I should read it or not, after reading your review, I totally need to read this one! I love that the love-story plot didn't make the book any less awesome and that there wasn't instalove! yay! And how awesome is it that it takes place in the '80s?! I'm a little worried I'll have trouble connecting too, but I'll give it a go!
    That quote is pure amazingness, I LOVE it!
    Now I'll be picking this one up, thanks Julia! :)

    1. YAY FOR NO INSTALOVE!!!! I definitely think you'll love it Katie! It seems like just the kind of book you would enjoy. :)

  8. I need to pick this up! I've been planning on it but I always forget. I think it's the love story thing that got me. I read the back (or front flap) and what Park said to Eleanor was just so sweet and smart. That totally got me! I need to read this SOOOOONN..

    -Ariella @ Secrets of Lost Words

    1. I definitely know how it is when you're wanting to read something but you keep forgetting, and forgetting, and forgetting. :P

      The whole book is basically one big bunch of adorableness and the writing is SO smart! You should definitely pick it up SOOONNN!!! Thanks for commenting. :)

  9. Hahaha I always guess the wrong gender of authors who have a unique name or only go by initials, don't worry :) Like Tahereh Mafi? I had no idea she was a girl. Whoops! Thank goodness for author photos!

    This sounds like a cute book! Sad, but cute. I was born in the early 90's so I do remember cassette tapes and using a land line haha. Random side note: I have a younger sister who was born in the year 2000 and is so completely oblivious. I like that this story is rather simplistic and only focuses on their growing relationship. I think it's a fresh take! Most novels always have some other subplot going on. Also, glad there's no insta-love! I need to go pick this book up!

    1. That's so funny you thought Tahereh was a boy! This may sound totally sexist, but I totally figured she was a girl simply because the girl on the front cover of Shatter Me... At least I was right that time! :P

      It's definitely a bittersweet book. I was born in the early 90's too so I totally remember cassette tapes (I clung onto the "greatness" of cassette tapes for years) and land lines. It's just that we're so far removed from that now you know? It's crazy how much technology has changed in the last decade or so. :)


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