I’ve spent half the day trying to properly describe how much I love this book and nothing is doing it justice. This book is such a beautifully realistic depiction of teenage love that I was equal parts nostalgic for those feeling and glad I’m a fully formed adult whose passion has been tempered with wisdom. Rainbow Rowell’s characters are realistically flawed and familiar in a way that makes you identify with them almost immediately.
Eleanor and Park takes place over the course of a school year in Nebraska over the course of a school year in 1986. Eleanor lives in poverty level conditions with her mother, siblings and abusive stepfather. She is forced to wear her limited clothing creatively to disguise the fact that she has very little to wear. Park comes from a relatively well adjusted middle-class family. However he’s quiet and likes punk, new wave and comic books. He’s also one of only two Asian kids in his school (technically he and his brother are half Korean but, as Park points out, he is the only once who looks it). The two are thrown together by chance on the school bus. While they first do their best to studiously ignore each other, they soon form a bond which grows into a deeply romantic relationship. Everything they go through should be incredibly familiar to anyone who’s experienced their first teenage love; the intensity of the feelings, the misunderstandings, the insecurities.
Although the fate of their relationship is given away at the beginning of the book, I won’t spoil anything for you. But if you’re looking for a story with realistic characters that make you care deeply for them I can’t recommend this book enough.