Monday, July 22, 2013
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park is an unconventional love story set over the course of a school year in 1986. Eleanor, dubbed "big red" by the popular kids for her bright red curly hair and portly stature, comes from a rough background. After living at the mercy of family friends for a year, Eleanor has recently moved back home with her mother, four siblings, and abusive step father into a squalid house in a new neighborhood. To say that she is less than thrilled to be the new kid in town would be quite the understatement. Park, the son of an American solider and a Korean native, who are still very much in love, has lived in the same neighborhood his entire life. Although he prefers his own company to that of his peers, he is more or less accepted by the other kids.
On the first day of sophomore year, in a manner similar to Forest Gump, Park reluctantly slides over and allows Eleanor to share his seat on the bus. Is it love at first sight? Far from it actually. Yet as the school year progresses, Eleanor and Park's relationship gradually evolves from mutual disdain to hesitant friendship and even something more as the two discover they have a shared taste in comic books and music. Eleanor and Park desperately steal each moment to secretly hold hands and exchange kisses, sharing mix tapes and swoon worthy marathon phone conversations. However, as with most romances, there will inevitably be something that conspires against the two, and in this story Eleanor's home life threatens to keep them apart. Will there be a happily ever after for the young couple? You'll have to read the book to find out.
Rowell's heartfelt tale entices readers to take a trip down memory lane; not only affording you the chance to relive your first romance, but also dispensing some great 80's references (Han Solo!) throughout the novel. After all, who doesn't remember the power of a mix tape (or mix CD for those of us born a bit later)? What really made this book stand out for me was the simplicity of the love story and the honesty of the two main characters. As one of my first actual conversations with my husband was about the comic Watchmen, it was very easy for me to relate to the bond these two unlikely protagonists formed over comics.
Fans of this novel should be sure to check out Rowell's other novels including her adult fiction title Attachments as well as her second teen novel Fangirl which is set to release in September. For other teen romance novels with a vintage vibe, check out Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt.