Reed Books: Eleanor and Park

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Reed Books: Eleanor and Park

Jess Reed, Staff Writer

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*Major spoilers ahead*

Rainbow Rowell is an author I’ve reviewed before, for her novels Carry On and Wayward Son. Still, her older book, Eleanor and Park, is so moving that I just have to write a review on it. Mature, sweet, and heartbreaking, this story of two teenagers in love is unlike any you’ve seen before.

Set in 1986, this book explores the love of Eleanor and Park, two sixteen year olds in Omaha, Nebraska. Eleanor is one of many siblings, and lives on the line of poverty with her younger sisters and brothers, her mom, and her abusive stepfather. Park has a more solid family life, but as an Asian-American in the middle of Nebraska, he isn’t exactly welcomed. The two meet on the bus ride to school, as Park shares his comics and music with Eleanor. They hit it off, and start dating.

What makes this novel so different from others of the same breed is its self-awareness; readers mock the Twilight franchise as “cringey”, and most teenage dramas can get a bit… well, dramatic. But Eleanor and Park is fully aware that it’s really just a teen love story. They take themselves too seriously, and the novel knows that. When Park makes an offhand remark about marrying Eleanor some day, she shuts him down, telling him that they really are just kids. On the other hand, Eleanor gets upset when she realizes that, while Park was her first kiss, another girl was his. The book points out the overreaction, but does not diminish the emotion that Eleanor really was feeling at that moment.

Towards its end, Eleanor and Park really kicks into high gear. When the two realize that Eleanor’s stepfather, Richie, has been writing sexually explicit notes in her textbook, and had discovered her stash of music and comics from Park, they run away immediately. With Park’s parents’ permission, the two drive up to Eleanor’s aunt and uncle’s house for her to stay indefinitely. They each deal with losing each other in different ways – Park writes her letters as often as he can, and tries to keep their lives normal. Eleanor never responds, but holds every card close to her.

When she does respond, in the very last line of the novel, it’s a small postcard delivered to Park the day after his prom.

Only three words long.

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