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Both Eleanor and Park are misfits, but for different reasons. Eleanor is the new kid, she has a rough home life, wears the wrong clothes, doesn't care what others think, and prefers to keep to herself. Park is very geeky - he loves his music and comic books, sports - not so much. The two end up sitting beside one another on the bus and after a lot of awkward silences, they slowly become friends and then more over their shared love of music and comic books, plus their mutual respect of each other.
I read this novel for YALSA's Backlist Bingo Reading Challenge and I'm so glad that I've finally read Rowell's first YA novel. I don't know why I'd been putting it off - probably because I've heard so many great things about it and I just didn't want it to be a disappointment. No idea why I thought that, since I loved Fangirl, Carry On, and Landline. However, of the four books that I have read by Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park is, marginally, my least favorite. That being said I think her contemporary (although this one is set in the 1980s, so I'm also considering it historical fiction) novels are some of the best out there.
Rowell's writing is always stunning. She, and her characters, say exactly what needs to be said and her descriptions while spare are just right. Eleanor and Park, themselves are wonderfully realistic and flawed characters, and make an excellent couple. Both are a breath of fresh air, especially Eleanor, but Park somehow still managed to be my favorite of the two leads. Plus, I really enjoyed his relationship with his family, as well as Eleanor's relationship with his family. The dual perspectives of both Eleanor and Park is great - it allows us to see into their heads just the right amount.
My only real issues with the story is that I wish there could have been a better conclusion for a couple of different elements. The very end of the novel is a bittersweet open ending. Open endings are good and all, but honestly I would have preferred a little more closure between our two leads. At least a short little epilogue looking into their future, rather than cutting off a few pages too soon! I also real wish we would have had a little more closure when it comes to Eleanor's home life. Too little was done with wrapping up her home life. I think if we had more that it could have been a little easier to understand some of Eleanor's decisions and thought-process.
Overall, if you're looking for an excellent contemporary (historical fiction) novel that tackles some weightier issues that features a sweet slow-burn romance between two friends, you can't miss Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park. If you've never tried Rainbow Rowell, you'll probably enjoy her style if you also like John Green, David Levithan, Adi Alsaid, Becky Albertalli, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, and/ or Maggie Steifvater. Now, I just need to read Rowell's Attachments and I'll have caught up on her novels.
I read this novel from September 15 - 18, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell fulfills the Printz Honor (any year) square on YALSA's Backlist Book Bingo Reading Challenge board.