The weird new girl at the back of the bus is sixteen year old Eleanor. The cute Asian guy is sixteen year old Park. The invisible force that is about to hit each of them is called love.
When Eleanor starts surreptitiously reading his comic books on the bus ride to school, Park notices and begins to share his world with her page by page on the way to school and on the way back home. Eleanor's clothes are oddball and she draws plenty of abuse from kids on the bus and at school. But this relationship stutters to a start and grows with snarky comments, brilliant red hair and a guy with a heart the size of Texas. How far can love go over the course of one year?
Eleanor has a lot of challenges. She's growing up in a house, not a home, filled with her five brothers and sisters, her defeated mother and her angry stepfather, Richie. Eleanor takes a bath in the afternoon behind a sheet before her stepfather comes home. Often, he's been drinking and always he is angry and ready to take it out physically on anyone close by especially Eleanor's mother. It's every man for himself at Eleanor's house.
Theirs is a life of day old everything. The Goodwill store is their treasure chest.
Park lives in a world of doilies and Avon cologne. When his father steps through the door each evening, he calls out in search of his beloved wife and they kiss each other passionately. Park has six kinds of cookies in his kitchen cupboard. It's that kind of a home though Park and his father are struggling with each other.
This is a story of a girl who is about to find out she is loved unconditionally for being exactly who she is. This is the story about the magic of the human heart.
Here come two characters you won't let go of readily. This is one of those books you wish you would never quite finish. Prepare to fall in love with Eleanor and Park.
Ages 14 and up 328 pages 978-1250012579 (Language and sexuality)
Recommended by: Barb
"Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me"
-- Lennon/McCartney, "I Will" from the White Album
"He was standing there in the half light, wearing a gray trench coat and
black high-tops, and watching for her.
"She ran past the last few houses to get to him. 'Good morning,' she
said, shoving him with both hands.
"He laughed and stepped back. 'Who are you?'
"'I'm your girlfriend,' she said. 'Ask anybody.'
"'No...my girlfriend is sad and quiet and keeps me up all night worrying
"'Bummer. Sounds like you need a different girlfriend.'
"He smiled and shook his head.
"It was cold and half dark, and Eleanor could see Park's breath. She
resisted the urge to try to swallow it.
"'I told my mom that I was going to be at a friend's house after
school...' she said.
"Park was the only person she knew who wore his backpack actually on his
shoulders, not slung over one side -- and he was always holding onto the
straps like he'd just jumped out of a plane or something. It was extremely
cute. Especially when he was being shy and letting his head hang forward.
"She pulled the front of his bangs. 'Yeah.'
"'Cool,' he said, smiling, all shiny cheeks and full lips.
"Don't bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It's disturbing and needy and
never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with big kisses.
"'I'm sorry about yesterday,' she said.
"He hung on to his straps and shrugged. 'Yesterday happens.'
God, it was like he wanted her to eat his face clean off."
Unique and endearing characters whom you really come to know and love
through their grit, their tenderness, and their innermost thoughts. Absolutely
great music. Exceptionally weird clothes. Not just bullying, but shades
of gray and back story relating to the bullying. An abusive step-parent who
is one of the foulest creatures you've ever met. Consistently beautiful
and honest writing.
What is there not to love about ELEANOR & PARK?
Set in 1986, ELEANOR & PARK is a tale of first love between the
oddly-attired, large, redheaded Eleanor, the new girl in town, and the skinny
half-Korean Park, whose veteran father grew up in the 'hood here.
Eleanor has just returned from a year away from home, such as it was,
having been kicked out of the family by her truly despicable, alcoholic
stepfather. (Yes, as you might well ask, where is her mom in permitting this to
happen to an underage girl? The mom is clearly a piece of work, too.)
Now back "home," Eleanor, who is the eldest child, and her siblings, are
all jammed into one small bedroom, at least until the stepfather deems her
brother Ben too old to any longer share it with the girls. Then Ben is
consigned to sleep in the dark, soggy basement, despite his fear of it. (Yes,
as you might well ask, where is their mom in permitting this?)
In contrast, I so love Park’s mother.
Scene after scene here is set so well, and is consistently so moving,
funny, scary, profound, horrifying, in large part because of our being
provided those inner thoughts of the pair.
So, what is there not to love about ELEANOR & PARK?
Well, what I am writing here is essentially Part II of what I wrote last
week about Ms. Rowell's wonderful novel FANGIRL, which was also published
this year. Some parents in Minneapolis with whom I disagree as strongly as
it is possible to disagree, put the kibosh on Ms. Rowell speaking to teens
in their city. Here, I'm going to copy and paste exactly what I wrote last
week about FANGIRL and just change the name of the book:
In one sense, this week's reading of ELEANOR & PARK has been the
disconnect of the year for me. Every time I've taken a break from reading it, I'd
be sitting here trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between the
notable tale in which I was emotionally immersed, and the headlines that have
recently been bouncing around the listservs that I frequent:
"Minnesotans cancel Rainbow Rowell's book visit after parent complaints"
I've read the article and, all week, I've been reading this author's work
that has had me feeling really happy and...I just so don't get it.
There is wealth of insipid and profane young adult literature out there
that is full of cardboard characters, devoid of literary merit, and lacking
in respect for its readers. It has its home in the choir and its
enthusiastic audience. And I spend a lot of time digging through it, like Indiana
Jones hacking his way through a jungle, as I seek out the occasional YA
treasure that still -- at the age of 58 -- moves and changes me as a human
being with its brilliance and wisdom. ELEANOR & PARK is one of the latter sort
of books, and it is an absolute crime that young people in the Minneapolis
area got screwed out of meeting this amazing writer thanks to somebody on
a mission to save the world from the F-word.
Anyway, this exception book is already winning awards and I’ve finally
gotten to read it. Now I'm looking around online for an ELEANOR & PARK
tee-shirt. I'm finding the one for John Green's FAULT IN OUR STARS, so I'm
hopeful that this dynamic duo and their ill-fated first love will get a
well-deserved comparable treatment.