Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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 is the 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.
I have recently become a big fan of Rainbow Rowell, after reading both Fangirl and Carry On. So, I thought it would be wise of me to finally read the book that made this author famous: Eleanor & Park. Now I understand why she is so esteemed. Powerful and romantic, this book about two teens from different backgrounds who somehow find each other shot an arrow straight through my heart.
Eleanor comes from a toxic household where everyone walks on egg shells around her abusive step-father. When she starts to get close to Park and hang out at his house with his family, she sees glimpses into what a normal home life is supposed to be like.
This story made me cry more than once because my teen years had many similarities. My dad was very controlling. An example: I wasn't allowed to wear blue jeans and didn't get my first pair until my boyfriend (now my husband) bought them for me when I was twenty. Yes, you read that right, twenty. There was also plenty of violence and and the fear each day that my dad would be in one of his "moods". The first time I visited my boyfriend's house, I was in awe. They lived in a really nice part of town, and I felt really uncomfortable because I didn't think I belonged there. It took years to make me feel worthy of dating their son, so low was my self-esteem.
So, this book really hit home.
In case you think, "Oh God, what a downer", I must say that this book is serious, but full of hope. Rainbow Rowell made me root for Eleanor and Park to keep moving forward. Park also experiences his share of problems as he clashes with his dad on what it is to be a man. He wants to rock a punk look (complete with eye liner) and his dad goes crazy over it. Happily, Park's mom is more accepting. I loved how there was at least someone in Park's life who let him explore with his identity. But the great thing was when there was a crisis in the book, Park's dad stepped up and supported Park in dealing with it. I honestly didn't think the dad would do that! But it gave me optimism for the teens when he did.
Overall, this story was one that I will think about for a long time, and recommend to anyone wondering if they should read it.
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio book
Recommendation: A powerful story of overcoming an abusive home environment. Well worth the time to read, but if you have triggers for domestic violence, you might want to skip it.