I needed a lighter read last week, and Eleanor & Park has been taking the blogosphere by storm lately. Set in the 80s, it's about teenager Eleanor, who has moved back in with her mother a year after being kicked out by her stepfather. On her first day at school, Park offers her a seat next to him on the bus to save her from the ridicule of the other kids. An unlikely friendship forms as the pair bond over mix tapes and comic books. Their friendship soon grows into something more, and this becomes the one bright spot in Eleanor's life.
Mostly, I loved Eleanor & Park. Mu husband and I got together as teenagers (I was 17, he was 18) and even though it's now almost ten years later, reading this book took me back to the early days, to what falling in love for the first time feels like. How you can agonise for ages over whether to hold someone's hand, how swapping music recommendations and developing a shared taste can be really exciting. Rowell perfectly captures the innocence and fear of first love.
I also loved how the characters felt very real and their relationship developed slowly over time. It wasn't just *bang* they meet and fall in love, there was a nice progression. Adding in the unhappiness of Eleanor's home life could have turned her into a cliche, but thankfully she was too three dimensional for that. Park was very real too, battling between his feelings for Eleanor and his desire to fit in with other kids.
The only issue I have with this book is that the second half of the book didn't live up to the first. The experience of actually falling in love was written so well that what came after it was bound to be a bit of a let down by comparison, and it was. But on the whole, Eleanor & Park was a lovely, easy to read book that perfectly captured first love. It definitely lived up to the hype.
Source: Personal copy (kindle)
First Published: 2013
Score: 4 out of 5