Have you ever read a book that was so intriguing and written with so much love that you felt it near impossible to put down? A novel that you felt had changed your life with its swift meanderings and twists and turns that left your tummy in knots for days after having put it down? Well, young writers and readers, this is the exact type of rollercoaster ride that Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park put me through.
However, before I get into my impassioned praise of this wonderful piece of young-adult fiction, I firstly want to point out that this is not the only novel written by Rainbow. This well-known author has also written Fan Girl, Landline, Carry On, Attachments and many other entertaining reads for teenagers and young adults, but even after reading all of the above, my opinion remains the same: Eleanor and Park is gold.
I was introduced to Eleanor and Park by a classmate of mine in my first year of Journalism school. After brusquely sneering at the cheesy romantic title, I sheepishly dropped the book into my bag, knowing full well I wouldn’t even bother reading until the night before I was to return it to her.
It was customary for her to lend me one book a week (after I had been blocked from the library for my many overdue books and fines) and after being able to put it off no longer, I finally picked up the novel, and I haven’t regretted it since.
“You never forget your first love.”
These were the first words on the cover that haunted me long after I had completed the read.
At the beginning of the novel, Eleanor and Park are introduced to us as two young mismatched teens from the 1980’s, who meet on the bus on their way to school. Park is described as a semi-popular, half-Korean, half-Caucasian guy who loves wearing black, martial arts, comic books and rock music. Eleanor’s character, on the other hand, is said to be ‘an enormous’ frizzy, red-headed girl, with sprinkles of freckles upon her cheeks and a very weird sense of fashion (none).
Although they do not understand each other at first – especially considering Park’s fear of befriending the social outcast – their rides together on the bus soon become and more intimate. Initially all Eleanor does is read Park’s comic books over his shoulders, which annoys him at first, but then leads to his leaving comic books on the seat between them. This love of reading the comics then lead to their talking and debating about the characters and plots, and before long, they had formed a bond (one that Park didn’t want the popular kids, or anyone else at their high school to know about).
After some time, this bond progressed to him actually letting her listen to his music and lending her his Walkman and music cassettes. I’m sure many of you must be thinking to yourselves, “What on earth is a Walkman?” Well, my Lovelies, a Walkman is a device that was used long ago for people to play their music on, they operated on BATTERIES, can you even imagine?!
Well, anyway, Eleanor and Park eventually fell in love, with many obstacles in their path, one of which was her step-father, a filthy drunk who abused her mother and marched about their house like a dictator, scaring Eleanor and her younger siblings.
Eleanor and her family were also extremely poor, all of her siblings sharing one single room. Park’s family, on the other hand, lived the life of luxury, money being the least of their familial problems…
I feel like it would be a sin to give any more details about the book away, even though I desperately want to. Let’s just say that the ending will have your tummy churning for days on end.
After I finished Eleanor and Park, I found myself staring at the book, dumbfounded, tears trickling down my chubby cheeks, as the word ‘why?’ escaped from my quivering lips.
Have I piqued your curiosity enough for you to check out the book for yourself? I’m sure you’re dying to learn about how Eleanor and Park’s story progressed and whether they managed to have their ‘Happily Ever After’, away from the judgemental eyes of their high school colleagues.
Please read the book, I promise that you will not regret it. I vowed that after I read the novel, that I would pass it to another, making them promise that they’d do the same, and so the chain continues to this day.
Reading should never be seen as a chore and a writer that makes you feel is definitely not one that should be sneered at. To Rainbow.