Well, this is just the most charming book I have read in awhile. I had heard so many people both here and in other book-type places talking about Rainbow Rowell for years and while I never really avoided her I just didn’t get around to picking up one of her books until now either. After reading this book, I think I get why I heard about her so much.
Park is a half-Korean, half-White kid who has spent his entire life in a suburb of Omaha. Eleanor is a girl from a pretty messed up home situation that just moved into his neighborhood. Eleanor is “weird,” a chubby redhead who does what she can to add flair to her thrift store wardrobe, and when she gets on the bus for her first day at her new school no one will let her sit next to them on the bus. This scene is told in such a clear way, the realities of how mean kids can be is laid out, but it isn’t over dramatized, which was refreshing. Anyway, when the driver is about to lose his temper Park finally offers up his coveted empty seat to her just to get the drama to stop. This was the beginning, as they say, of a beautiful friendship. That friendship starts to blossom into more and Park has to navigate his complicated feelings surrounding falling for the “weird girl,” especially since the things that make her different are some of the things he likes best about her. Eleanor has to figure out how to let Park in the way she wants to, but still do her best to keep herself safe in her extremely abusive household.
Rowell has a wonderful way of getting in to teenager’s heads. I like that she didn’t shy away from the fact that Park really was concerned that dating Eleanor would harm his social status that allowed him to essentially get through High School unmolested. That is a real thing, and I don’t think it gets enough credit in these kinds of stories. It doesn’t make him a jerk, either, he’s just deciding if self-preservation is more important than his feelings for this other person, and feeling crappy about even thinking about it. I would get a little frustrated with Eleanor, but at the same time I also fully understood her motivations as well. This was a kid dealing with things adults shouldn’t have to deal with. The clean, direct writing style, told from the perspectives of both kids, was really easy to get into and I flew through the book in about two days.
This is filling the “So Popular” box on my Bingo Card.