Rerun Reviews features reviews by Debbie, previously published on Keep Calm Read Romance or Talk Supe -- and reviews by Ali previously published on GingerRead Reviews.
Series: Stand Alone
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Two misfits.One extraordinary love.Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
When I received the review request from St. Martin's Press, as I always do, I popped over to Goodreads and Amazon to read the synopsis and take a closer look at the author. Had I gone by the blurb on Goodreads (the one shown above), I may have passed this book up. It was what I saw on Amazon that had me anxious to read Eleanor & Park:
Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
It was the banter between these two that I found intriguing. Plus, I am a product of the eighties...if I thought I could get away with it, I would probably still where my hair in some ridiculous angular cut. Okay, not really but you will still find me lovingly listening to "new wave" music while I clean my house. Anyway, what I'm saying is the book seamed like something I would like.
I was wrong.
This book is something that I loved.
When I read on my Kindle, I highlight all the bits I want to remember for when I write my review. There are usually a handful. If you peak at my Eleanor & Park file there is yellow all over the place. There is so much good stuff here, it has it all.
Eleanor has a rough life and that is putting it mildly. After a year of couch surfing she's brought back home to live with her mother, her four younger siblings and her creeper stepfather. She has to share a room with all her brothers and sisters, there is no door on the bathroom, almost all of her possessions were thrown out while she was gone and her mother can't even remember to buy Eleanor her own toothbrush. To say she is an awkward outcast with fluffy red hair and a ridiculous wardrobe would be an understatement.
Park is the only (half) Asian kid in the area. He's not sure where he fits in and no one else really seems to know either. He's not a pariah at school but he is somewhat on the outskirts of the 'in crowd' and is careful to not be completely pushed to the outer limits.
This unlikely pair is forced to sit together on the bus but don't talk or acknowledge each other for weeks. Yet a relationship, a bond, forms between them that is undeniable and utterly heart oozing sweet. When they first interact and become more than two strangers simultaneously riding a bus, watch out because all the warm fuzzies will be spreading from your ears to your toes. The first hand holding is to die for cute.
Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete and completely alive.If you've ever wondered what that feels like, it's a lot like melting - but more violent.
As the relationship develops, so do the insecurities that Eleanor and Park both harbor and so do the secrets of Eleanor's home life and struggle with girls at school. It is the love that these two feel for each other that carry them through each day and living without each other becomes something of an impossibility.
The exchanges between these two is nothing less than adorable and their inner monologues are even better.
She sat completely still because she didn't have any other option. She tried to remember what kind of animals paralyzed their prey before they ate them... Maybe Park had paralyzed her with his ninja magic, his Vulcan handhold, and now he was going to eat her. That would be awesome.
This started out as such a quirky and fun story, I often found myself giggling aloud. As the story became more intimate and serious, it began to tug at my heart and with one absolute 'mom moment', I was reduced to tears. Not something I do regularly with books.
I won't lie and tell you this a super feel good HEA type of book. It has many super feel good moments but the crux of the story is more profound and questions the power of love - what it makes you do - and what you are willing to give up to hold on to it.
Now, I have recently berated a book for having an untidy ending. Eleanor & Park's ending leaves a lot to the imagination as well. But, I think this ending works and I'll explain why.
First, this is a standalone book. I have not invested hours upon hours developing deep emotions for the story, nor have I spent years waiting and wondering what is going to happen next and how it is going to end. Second, these are teens experiencing their first love, the kind of love that your heart hurts when you are away from the person for an hour. The type of love that stays with you in your heart forever, even if the relationship itself doesn't last. When you're young you think everything will last forever and always be as perfect as it is now. It's not reality. Life gets in the way, growth gets in the way. In my head, this ending was reminiscent of that sort of love and it was quite fitting. Others may not agree.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a first love, somewhat coming of age type story or someone like me who loves the nostalgic feelings that can't help but surface when reading about young love in the age of your own teen years.