A kooky love story between two misfit teenagers, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park has a more serious side to its light-hearted plot line.

Eleanor is new to town and clearly has no intentions of fitting in with her unruly red hair, patchwork jeans and chaotic family life.

Park is the quiet boy on the bus, always in black, listening to music with his headphones on, reading the latest comic book.

Neither of them realise that they’ll become friends when Eleanor sits next to him on the bus on that first day. Neither of them realise that friendship can just as quickly become something more, regardless of the barriers that may come between them.

While I view the opinion of a fellow blogger very highly, I’d have to strongly disagree with her opinion of Eleanor and Park – to me it was a bittersweet love story between two teenagers that just seemed so real. What I loved about it was that the two protagonists, Eleanor and Park, are so different from the ‘cliche’ of what is expected from YA fiction – neither of them are outrageously beautiful, sporty or popular, yet they’re still in love with one another. I.e. how love works in the real world.

Don’t get me wrong, their flaws, particularly Eleanor’s, are frustrating to read at times – mostly when she fails to let Park into her life and as a result pushes him away (which sounds so very cliche, but I swear it isn’t when you’re actually reading it). But that only makes it more realistic, and more enjoyable.

While the storyline of Eleanor and Park isn’t particularly complex, and there is very little ‘love tension’ between Eleanor and Park, it doesn’t stop it from being an absolute pleasure to read. Rainbow Rowell has captured that feeling that exists between teenagers and first love – not much might happen, afternoons spent listening to CDs may take place instead of romance, but in that time and space it’s the whole world. School becomes something exciting, weekends turn into a drag and hours spent doing absolutely nothing together is pure bliss – all of this nostalgia that I’m sure we all feel about teenage love is perfectly captured by Rowell in this novel.

However, there was one aspect of the plot that I didn’t agree with and that was the way that Eleanor’s mother allowed Eleanor and her siblings to be abused by her husband, Richie. I will readily admit that I have never thankfully been in a position where I have witnessed firsthand what domestic violence looks like, but the idea that Eleanor’s mother actually says to Eleanor that she should ‘just endure it’ goes against every notion I have of what a mother should be. If I’m completely out of line with saying this, go right ahead and tell me, but it was the biggest flaw in the novel for me – that everyone else could see how horrific it is that a daughter could be abused by her stepfather, yet her own mother (who is described as a loving, warm mother) is OK for it to just occur. It just didn’t sit right with me.

Overall though, Eleanor and Park lived up its reputation – it is a lovely, genuine novel that depicts the ups and downs of first love in a way that will bring back nostalgic memories of your own.

Have you read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell? Are you a fan? Let me know!

eleanor and park by rainbow rowell

Eleanor and Park – (image taken from http://www.rainbowrowell.com)