February Bookclub Review: Eleanor & Park

Monday 29 February 2016 by

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell, Orion, Book, Reading, #HoBBookclub, RomanceEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published by Orion

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

~*~

It’s February, which means it’s romance month. Not your conventional chick lit, or YA novel, Eleanor & Park tells the story of Eleanor and Park (oddly enough) and their love story. It’s 1986, and Park is on the school bus when a new girl gets on. She instantly stands out because of her choice of clothes and her bright red hair, and at first, Park doesn’t want anything to do with her. But as the weeks go on, stuck together on the bus, things change.

Eleanor is from a rough home, whilst Park is from the standard 2.4 family. And as their love grows, so too does the danger from Eleanor’s stepfather.

Remember what it was like to be in love at 16? That obsessive, everything-or-nothing love where it seems like it will last forever. That’s the kind of love that Eleanor and Park have. It’s the YA-part of the novel, and it’s as sweet and as silly as you imagine it to be. After all, the romantic part of us always wants a love like that.

But the themes are much darker than teenage love. Eleanor has to deal with bullying at school and abuse at home, and Park – no matter how hard he tries – can’t protect her from it. This undercurrent of danger runs throughout the book, tainting everything with the knowledge that something is coming, and the split voices of Park and Eleanor work towards the conclusion on different trails, with the same result.

Eleanor and Park feel like natural characters (although I can’t deal with the repeated references to her weight) and their blossoming friendship and romance feel honest. There were some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, and dialogue was one of the most authentic I’ve read in a while. I love the clothes, and references to comics and music that are scattered throughout the story – there is nothing quite like a good soundtrack and on-point fashion statements to make you feel like you’re in the 1980s.

I actually really loved this book, despite not being much of a romance reader, because it was sweet and funny and all the things you wish from a teenage romance. Although there are dark themes, it never overwhelms, and the neat writing style keeps you tripping along without hesitating or stumbling.

It’s a refreshing romance that doesn’t feel typical or synthetic. It feels warm and fresh and exciting.

What did you think of Eleanor & Park?

March’s House of Blog Bookclub is All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders! Tweet your thoughts through the hashtag #HoBBookclub on Twitter or write on the wall on the House of Blog Facebook page.

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