Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is the kind of story that will tear you to pieces. It’s stunningly raw, emotional, and intense with a romance that struggles to remain in tact. Ms. Rowell’s writing is clear, precise, and explosive. Yet there’s a subtlety to the story, one that advances the plot and characters. I particularly loved the more intimate scenes with Eleanor and Park. The dialogue in these moments is so perfect and captivating that I couldn’t help but re-read several lines just to experience them again.
I was a bit surprised by how dark the story is, though. Gayle Forman’s blurb, in particular, threw me off and I’m not sure it truthfully captures what the book is. The dark tone works well, though, and helps make the overall story more mature and emotional.
What gives the story the dark edge is that Eleanor lives a hard life. With a sleazy stepdad, a mother who has lost herself, and siblings who all need attention and love,Eleanor has a lot of on her plate. At times I felt like she was too passive, but given her life, it’s not hard to see why she would be that way. In general, her struggles, both personally and socially, provide a stimulating element to the story and contrast well with Park’s seemingly lighter life.
Park is a quirky and adorable character, and he balances beautifully with Eleanor. I loved his parents and enjoyed their family dynamics. He shows the most growth, in my opinion, and it was wonderful to see how his opinions and views start changing once he begins to realize how much he cares for Eleanor.
Overall, Eleanor & Park is an achingly beautiful story about a girl and a boy and everything in between. It’s that kind of book that is sure to grab a hold of readers’ hearts and minds. A definite must read!