This book was recommended to me thru goodreads and amazon due to my excessive John Green (who has a blurb on the back cover) habit from the beginning of the year. I can see the connection, there is definitely a the Fault in our Stars vibe about the love between two people who feel like outsiders. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first few chapters, but once Eleanor and Park’s flirtation begins the novel picks up.
Set in 1986 Omaha. NE, Eleanor & Park is the story of Eleanor- an overweight, redhead with a troubled home life and Park- a Korean/Irish American into punk rock and comic books. The two meet on the school bus where they forge an unlikely relationship despite their differences and Eleanor’s refusal to open up about her home life.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important”
The story is told from both Eleanor and Park’s alternating points of view; sometimes going on for pages, sometimes just a few sentences.
Eleanor just spent a year at a family friend’s house because her step-father kicked her out, her mother is petrified of upsetting her husband and rocking the boat. Eleanor sleeps in the same bedroom as her four siblings, she has very few personal belongings (she doesn’t even have a toothbrush!) and there isn’t even a door on their one bathroom. There is a horrible sense of dread whenever you’re with Eleanor and her family.
Park dated a popular girl when he was younger which gave him the goodwill to get through high school relatively unscathed; however Park has always felt a little different than his peers. He questions his sexuality at some points and experiments with wearing makeup. Park’s father met his mother while he was in Korea during his military service and they have a romantic, bordering on embarrassing relationship. His father is tough on Park, he gives him grief about not learning to drive stick shift and doesn’t speak to him when he starts wearing eyeliner, but Park’s parents definitely step up after they get to know Eleanor. Over time they form a surrogate family for her, even if she never quite relaxes in their presence.
I hated the ending, it was a plausible ending… probably the most likely ending if this was a true story but it was hard to read. It just wasn’t what I wanted for these two, it made me sad.
Figures John Green would recommend a book that makes you cry at the end.
“I just can’t believe that life would give us to each other,’ he said, ‘and then take it back.’
‘I can,’ she said. ‘Life’s a bastard.”