If you’ve not yet read ‘Eleanor & Park‘ by Rainbow Rowell, to which I have to ask, where on Earth have you been? then I suggest you stop reading this review NOW!
“I don’t believe that 17 year old’s get happy endings. They get beginnings.”
To create characters that your readers can relate to is one of the most important aspects of writing a novel, and something that Rainbow Rowell does effortlessly. Going into ‘Eleanor & Park’ I had little to no expectations, as this was the first book by Rainbow Rowell that I had picked up.
When I first picked up ‘Eleanor & Park’ I’ll admit that I struggle with it in the beginning, but as I pushed my way through the first few pages I slowly became hooked, wrapped up in the lives of the two characters, and found myself really enjoying the switch between each character’s point of view. We begin the book with Park’s point of view, and right off the bat I think it’s easily recognisable that he is going to be a character that a lot of teenagers can relate to, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sat at the back of a bus with my music on full blast, trying to block out whatever was happening around me. As described in the back of the book, Park is a 16 year old boy, who, like most teenage boys, can’t wait to have his driving licence, so that he didn’t have to put up with the people on the school bus anymore. He chooses to not draw attention to himself and to act as though he is invisible, that way he wouldn’t be made a target.
Enter Eleanor, red hair, crazy clothes, new girl and far from invisible. The first time we meet Eleanor she is immediately the centre of attention, nobody wants to sit near her and Park describes her as looking like a “scarecrow or one of those trouble dolls his mom kept on her dresser”. Through the character of Eleanor, Rainbow Rowell reminds us how cruel teenagers can be, judging people by how they look and causing them to feel like outsiders. Eleanor’s home life is far from perfect. Her mom and dad are divorced, her step dad is an alcoholic and a bully, and her mom can’t do anything about it. Park’s home life is such a strong contrast, his mom and dad adore each other and treat Park as parents should.
The first extract of the book, before Chapter 1 begins, is clearly meant to have taken place after the end of the book. It explains how Park still sees Eleanor in everything that he does, even when he’s doing something as simple as driving to work. Anybody that’s experienced first love will know that a little bit of that person always stays with you, and they will always have a little bit of your heart that is shut off to everybody else. What Rainbow Rowell does in ‘Eleanor & Park’ is provide readers with a story that is so easily relatable to, a first love torn away, and she captures it in a way that’s so beautiful.
From the moment Park tells Eleanor to sit down the first time she gets on the bus, they begin to fall in love, over a course of bus journeys, late nights and mix tapes. Eleanor questions Park on why he likes her, and isn’t this exactly what every girl thinks when a boy tells her he likes her? The bond between Eleanor and Park, which eventually expands to the bond between Eleanor, Park, and Park’s family is so precious, as it’s an escape to Eleanor, something that, in contrast to her home life, is safe, enjoyable and full of nothing but love.
Towards the end of the book Park becomes a knight in shining armour, saving Eleanor from her horrid step-dad, even though he knows it means that he won’t see Eleanor again for a very long time. The moment Park walks past Eleanor’s home and describes how there “were never any strawbery-blonde kids playing in the yard” is heartbreaking and all too familiar. Anyone who is no longer close to someone who meant the world to them will know how it feels to walk past a place where you shared so many memories with a person and to realise that they’re no longer there. It’s so easy for the reader to be in Park’s head, to understand his emotions and feel his heartbreak, which only adds to how relatable the book is.
The one and only thing that infuriated me about this book, and still does to this day, is that we never find out what the three words are that Eleanor writes on the back of the postcard to Park. I love you? I miss you? The possibilities are endless and I could happily live in the world of ‘Eleanor & Park’ forever, but for now it’s safe to say they definitely didn’t get a happy ending, but they did get a new beginning.
‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell is the perfect book to pick up if you want to get lost in a heart wrenching love story that will remind you what it is to fall in love. With characters that are so precious, lovable and relatable, ‘Eleanor & Park’ stuck with me for a very long time after finishing it, I’d give this book 4 stars!
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