Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

When Park first spots Eleanor, it isn't love at first sight as the ill-at-ease girl... read more

When Park first spots Eleanor, it isn't love at first sight as the ill-at-ease girl looks for a seat on the bus. " 'Jesus-fuck,' Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, 'just sit down.' " But Park's initial distaste slowly becomes attraction as they bond over mutual interests, especially music. Although Park hardly hangs with the popular crowd in high school, Eleanor is a true outsider, moving through the world like someone who doesn't believe she's worthy of love. Recently back with her family after time in foster care, Eleanor has no privacy in their cramped home, where there's never enough money and too little safety with her mother's dangerous boyfriend on the scene. Meanwhile, biracial (Korean/white) Park is increasingly at odds with parents who don't seem to understand who he is or how he expresses himself. Both his dad's anger and his mom's dismissal of Eleanor hurt. Eleanor and Park's alternating perspectives follow them from the time of their initial encounter through their growing intimacy in a tender and complicated love story. Rainbow Rowell drills down to the deepest levels of her characters as the beautifully developed relationship between Eleanor and Park is affected by the tumult in their lives. Prejudice and assumptions due to class, race, and other dimensions of appearance (Eleanor's weight, Park's choice to wear eyeliner) are portrayed as they play out in real life-in ways both subtle and overt. Believable, well-developed secondary characters add to the richness of a novel in which everyone is achingly, infuriatingly, poignantly human, for better and for worse. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

show less