I’m not so much a reader of YA, but Rowell, deservedly, gets a lot of praise and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Eleanor and Park. I liked it fine, but it’s not one that really sticks to my ribs.
Summary: It’s 1986, Eleanor is a new kid in high school in Omaha. She meets Park on the school bus — Eleanor dresses weird and comes from a rough family background; Park is biracial and generally just tries to keep his head down. They bond over comic books and music and fall in love.
I liked what this book had to say, I liked the diversity of characters, and I liked that both Eleanor and Park dealt with real problems as well as “high school problems.” That’s a rare combination to find in a book. I also liked how real Eleanor’s reactions seemed, how she withdrew from her family and tried to manage her siblings, how she was mature enough to know what was going on but not mature enough to know–really–what to do about it. I liked how Park slowly figured out what Eleanor needed from him, and how to listen and draw her out. I liked the descriptions of young love, and the side-by-side comparisons of how Park saw Eleanor vs how she saw herself. And I loved the well-drawn supporting characters.
However, I didn’t connect to the characters very much, and I think it’s because I was a bit underwhelmed by the style–it simply didn’t elicit much emotion for me. I can’t really put my finger on why, exactly–maybe I’m just not a YA person.
That said, I can see why others like it, and I’m glad it exists, and I can think of a few people I’ll be recommending it to.