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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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Top Customer Reviews
I absolutely LOVED Eleanor right off the bat, she was so easy to relate to in the sense that she is such a simple girl. She's one of those girls that doesn't need all the glitter and glam to be happy in her life. Though she's severely insecure about herself and the people in her life, she is very confidant in knowing WHO she is and what she thinks she wants from this life that she's really only trying to survive. Life had dealt her a hard hand lately.
I really enjoyed seeing Eleanor grow in this book, watching her change and open up (if only a little bit) towards Park. In the beginning of the story, she was so capable of being loved and so open to it... but that was one of the things that bothered me so much by the end of this book. Eleanor wanted to be known completely and loved so deeply, but would never just let Park ALL the way in!
Now, Park. He is by far one of my favorite Young Adult male characters EVER! I just love his personality and style and the fact that he's not afraid to let his friends know he's a bit on the weird side! Throughout the whole book, I was so glad to see Park remain exactly who he was and I feel like I got to really know and understand him completely. I adored his love for Eleanor and his ability to love her for exactly who she was (dirty clothes, crazy hair and all), and he didn't try to change her or judge what he didn't know about her life. He also seemed very okay with the boundaries that Eleanor set very early on and he tried really hard not to push them, although I felt so much that he wanted to. My favorite thing to see in this book was when Park changed from being embarrassed about being around her and being seen with her, to being embarrassed for her. He loved her, and eventually stood up for her to his own friends. That's love, people!
An added note of hilarity, this quote had me rolling on the floor: "Don't bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It's disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with big kisses." Eleanor's sense of humor is literally the best!
But this is my favorite overall quote from the book: "He tried to remember how this happened - how she went from someone he'd never met to the only one who mattered." I love this quote because I thought it was a very genuine thought and kind of a big deal for a teenager falling in love. I think it truly shows the honesty in the love that Park was feeling for Eleanor.
By the very end of the book (spoilers ahead), Park will eventually find someone who loves him completely and Eleanor will go on alone until she can learn to finally let her walls down. I was very unhappy with how Eleanor left town. I felt like the end of the book was very rushed and I felt like Park (and I) had no closure at all! The postcard, while I'm glad she was finally able to say those 3 words (I think she finally told him she loved him), didn't give me what I needed from the end of this book at all! I found myself thinking that the end of this book had SO much potential to continue, but it just seemed to flop at the end with no real direction. It was obvious to me that it was probably the author's intention, but I'd really like to ask her WHY?! I felt like these characters grew up so much and grew to know themselves and each other really well over the course of the story, just to let them end things so abruptly with no real reason why?! I loved the story, but the end, much like some other endings in real life, really disappointed me.
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.