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Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell


This little novel is a teen fiction and romance set in the 80’s that follows two kids, unsurprisingly called Eleanor & Park. Set in high school, these kids are living the stereotypical teenage hell, fending off bullies and just trying to get through the day under the radar. But these two have some extra problems going on in their lives which, with the help of the other, they are able to get through day to day. After Park lets the weird new girl Eleanor sit next to him on the bus, we kick off our novel where a cliffhanging connection slowly grows.

The main plot of this one are these two, their personal issues and how their bond grows over time. Park being part of a multicultural family is dealing with his Asian/American background and also his personal image and how he expresses himself in highschool. Eleanor’s problems are a but more in your face with her living in poverty with her mothers abusive new husband, constantly living in fear of physical and sexual abuse, as well as the constant emotional abuse that takes place on a day to day basis. She also deals with pretty extensive bullying on top of everything else, making parts of this one very heartbreaking to read.

“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.” 

Park is an unlikely friend to Eleanor and soon, they are only talking to each other and bonding over music, and how artists express themselves. This gives them the courage to open up more and despite all odds and challenges, they form a relationship which becomes a defining factor of their young lives and who they are.

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

I didn’t mind these characters, they each has enough depth and detail to be interesting and their problems couldn’t just be attributed to teenage angst and puppy love. I really enjoyed reading how they both helped each other with the struggles they were going through and I could feel how their connection had built slowly but steadily over time. I thought they captured the teenage type emotions quite well, especially as they were realising they liked each other as more than just bus seat buddies.

“You’re my favorite person of all time.”

This one had some really nice messaging and quotes that I know are a favourite amongst the bookish community and I can really see why it is a big winner for so many people.

The pacing and narrative worked well and the resolution felt realistic and nicely wrapped up. I guess I’m not just a lover of a lot of YA books anymore unless I feel a real strong connection or fall in love with the characters and in this case I just didn’t. Whilst a solid book, and it pleasantly included more than just superficial teenage issues, nothing jumped out at me and had me hooked to the point where I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. For lovers of YA I would think this is probably up there with some of the better ones dealing with abuse and other teenage issues and recommend you add it to your list! I wish I read this closer to when it first came out and I hadn’t consumed so much YA to the point where a lot of it feels formulaic to me now.

“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

I read this for my Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt “a banned book – during Banned Books Week”. You can check out my progress here.



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