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Eleanor & Park Hardcover – February 26, 2013
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: While Eleanor & Park is technically classified as YA lit and has a cutesy cover, don’t let the stigma of “books for teens” fool or deter you. It is written about teens, sure, but the themes are so universal that anyone who survived high school will relate to the lives of the two protagonists. Eleanor is the new girl in town and her wild red hair and patchwork outfits are not helping her blend in. She ends up sitting next to Park on the bus, whose tendencies towards comic books don’t jibe with the rest of his family’s love of sports. They sit in awkward silence every day until Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comics over his shoulder; he begins to slide them closer to her side of the seat and thus begins their love story. Their relationship grows gradually--making each other mixed tapes (it is 1986 after all) and discussing X-Men characters--until they both find themselves looking forward to the bus ride more than any other part of the day. Things aren’t easy: Eleanor is bullied at school and then goes home to a threatening family situation; Park’s parents do not approve of Eleanor’s awkward ways. Ultimately, though, this is a book about two people who just really, really like each other and who believe that they can overcome any obstacle standing in the way of their happiness. It’s a gem of a book. --Caley Anderson
*Starred Review* Right from the start of this tender debut, readers can almost hear the clock winding down on Eleanor and Park. After a less than auspicious start, the pair quietly builds a relationship while riding the bus to school every day, wordlessly sharing comics and eventually music on the commute. Their worlds couldn’t be more different. Park’s family is idyllic: his Vietnam vet father and Korean immigrant mother are genuinely loving. Meanwhile, Eleanor and her younger siblings live in poverty under the constant threat of Richie, their abusive and controlling stepfather, while their mother inexplicably caters to his whims. The couple’s personal battles are also dark mirror images. Park struggles with the realities of falling for the school outcast; in one of the more subtle explorations of race and the other in recent YA fiction, he clashes with his father over the definition of manhood. Eleanor’s fight is much more external, learning to trust her feelings about Park and navigating the sexual threat in Richie’s watchful gaze. In rapidly alternating narrative voices, Eleanor and Park try to express their all-consuming love. You make me feel like a cannibal, Eleanor says. The pure, fear-laced, yet steadily maturing relationship they develop is urgent, moving, and, of course, heartbreaking, too. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones
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“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
Can you all believe I had never read this book until now? Yeah, neither can I. Because that is CRAZY! To be fair, I put it off a lot. In a weird way that doesn't make sense, I didn't want to ruin Fangirl. And this book didn't, I still love Fangirl, I just have a different kind of love for Eleanor and Park.
This book is about two outcast teens who become friends when they are forced to sit next to each other on the bus to and from school. At first, they don't really understand each other, but as time goes by, they want to get to know each other and develop an amazing friendship, and then romance.
“What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away? The math seemed impossible.”
This is going to be a shorter review because I think everyone has already said all the things about this book. But MY HEART. This book made me wish that men like Park existed in real life, because no man could measure up to this guy. And Eleanor, I bled for that girl. I just wanted to hug her and tell her she was beautiful and that someone cared.
Anyways, if you are stupid like me and haven't read this book, you need to correct this giant mistake asap. You won't regret this one!
“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you."
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
"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. And because I'm so out of control, I can't help myself. I'm not even mine anymore, I'm yours, and what if you decide that you don't want me? How could you want me like I want you?"
He was quiet. He wanted everything she'd just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with 'I want you' in his ears.”
Eleanor and Park are a few years older than I was in 1986, but their experiences of school and pop culture were still a blast from the past. The authentic details pull the reader in to intimate scenes where Eleanor and Park meet, on the bus, where clothing, hair, sounds, and fragrances make a difference in the lives of the characters. These small, believable, unbelievably tender moments build up to the sort of frenzied crescendo I can't get enough of. There are no death-defying moments in this book, but in the scale of the story, the climax fits perfectly. The reader feels exactly what each of the characters feels.
The idea to switch points of view was risky, but is helped by the consistency and the label at the top of each switch. I wasn't sure it would work in the long run, but getting both Eleanor's and Park's honest appraisal of their gentle yet star-crossed love ended up being hugely satisfying. I picked this book up because the description mentioned that the lovers know they're doomed, but still try to keep their love alive against all odds, and a review said that it was great for YA readers who were tired of dystopia. While it could be argued that Eleanor's home life is plenty dystopian, this is indeed an optimistic novel that will please everyone's inner romantic.