Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My first 5 star read of 2015 is one that has been out for a few years now, and it’s a YA book at that. Eleanor and Park has been sitting on my kindle for a while now, and I gotta tell you, if it’s sitting on yours – stop what you’re doing and crack it open! I can’t get it out of my head.  Maybe it’s because it is written and set in the time period where I was the exact age of these characters, and because I’m now the mother of a teenager.

            I noticed that there are some reviews written by people I follow and respect that don’t understand the higher ratings given to Eleanor and Park. I believe it has to do with age and where one is in life. Let me explain – Eleanor is living with her mom, stepdad, and four siblings, after being kicked out the year before. It is not a safe house, nor a calm, loving home. It’s barren, cold, uncomfortable, and scary, most of the time.

Park is Asian American, much loved, and lives in a home laden with hope, caring, and stability. They meet on the bus. Park has the heart, although begrudgingly, to give her a seat. What develops from there is a friendship that neither had anticipated, founded in music and comic books.

Park is a safe harbor, and a light in the darkness. He sees the good, and he sees HER.
Eleanor is self-conscious, unsure, and nervous. The funny thing is, everyone else sees her as self-assured and strong, but they still try to unhinge her and bring her down.  It’s amazing to see what others’ perceptions of us really are.

Just in case I didn’t mention it before, this is the eighties. Bullying wasn’t a talking point in the news. Teachers and parents didn’t respond to it the way they do now. Having grown up in that time really gave me a deeper connection to Eleanor than I would have if the story was set in present day.

I cried for Eleanor and her circumstance. I cried for Park’s mother’s understanding. It was of the time, and it was captivating.

Eleanor and Park also makes me proud that my child doesn’t bully, and that my home has been a safe haven when needed. Sometimes it’s good to have a reminder of that.

I give 5 stars for a wonderful book with tons of quotable quotations that I will let you discover on your own. 


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