12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
This Charming Book -- Must-Read '80s Nostaligia About First Love, 9 July 2012
It's so difficult for me to write a review of a book that I LOVE. It's like, I want to do justice to the book with my review, but feel that I won't be able to, so I put off writing the review. As I write this review of Rainbow Rowell's sophomore effort (her first being the superb "Attachments"), you can bank on the fact that I've gone back and reread, rewritten and reworded this, but I still won't feel I've done Rainbow's book justice. But, here goes:
"Eleanor & Park" tells the story of a school year (1986-87) in the life of the titular characters. The reader gets a bird's-eye view (or should I say bus-eye view) of their first encounter, their getting to know one another to their falling in love. But let me tell you right now: it's not a teen-angsty, cutesy book. Rainbow delves DEEP into the characters of both Eleanor and Park, so much so that they practically jump out of the page and sit next to you to read the book along with you (like E&P's bus ride to school sharing a Watchmen comic).
(*Side note: While there is much talk of comic books and comic-book characters, if you are not a fan of those, please don't let that put you off reading this. I can honestly say I've never read a comic book in my life, except maybe Calvin & Hobbes, and I found this comic element only adds to the story w/o putting off noncomic-book readers. Rainbow uses comic books as a plot advancer, metaphor, comedic element, etc., but it never overpowers or becomes overladen in "geekiness." Trust me, it's cool.)
Rainbow perfectly captures the tentative awkwardness that one feels as a teenager who is isn't quite used to her body, her hormones and the opposite sex. The electricity of that first touch from someone you have feelings for -- hoping upon hope that he feels the same way too -- to one's insecurity with one's body, to the topsy-turvy butterfly stomach of your first kiss, Rainbow expertly plumbs those adolescent depths.
Of course, it's not all unicorns and butterflies in E&P's world -- Eleanor has to deal with some major issues in her home life, as well as being the target of bullies at school. And Park's issues stem from not feeling fully accepted by his macho father, nor his town in general, as (in his mind) he's the only half-American/half-Korean teenage boy in the tristate area who doesn't fit the All-American Boy standard.
I also have to mention E&P's (and Rainbow's) great taste in music. This book's soundtrack will have you rushing to your iTunes account to buy some of these songs that you only had on cassette or vinyl and really want to hear again.
I could go on and on, but I don't want to give away too much. Just know that as you read this book: you will laugh out loud; you will knowingly smile; you will be enraged; you will have butterflies in your stomach; you will take your own trip down memory lane; and most of all, you will wish the story wouldn't end.
After all, Eleanor & Park are human and they needed to be loved, just like everybody else does.