This is going to be one of those times where the review of the book is slighter than it should be, but dangit, sometimes you read a book that makes you feel feelings that it might take you several months of prolonged writing to properly parse out. I just don’t have that kind of time to spend on this review.
I fell head over heels in love with Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel, Attachments, back in February, and even though her second novel is a horse of a different color, her lovely words, her ability to create lovable, relatable, yet flawed characters, and, quite frankly, her gift at capturing moments of heightened emotion, both small and large, remains the same (if not improved).
Eleanor & Park is the story of two teenagers in 1986. New girl Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus, and in between reading comics over his shoulder and sharing headphones with one another, they fall in love. Eleanor is an outlier, a big girl with a shock of red curly hair, who wears strange, mismatched clothes and has an extremely troubled family life. Park, due to his longevity in the neighborhood, is actually pretty high on the social acceptance scale, but has always felt like an outsider anyway because of his Korean heritage and his interest in less traditionally masculine things. There isn’t much plot movement, per se, but there sure as hell is a lot of emotional movement. Rowell is an expert at examining the nuances of interpersonal relationships, at taking the moments a lot of authors just gloss over and punching you in the feelings with them. There’s this scene where Eleanor and Park hold hands for the first time that just took my breath away, and it was such a simple moment, but Rowell just kills it. The only thing about Eleanor & Park is that it’s dark in places that I wish it wasn’t, not because it’s not well-written or I didn’t like the story, but because it illuminates certain things about life that I’d prefer to forget exist. This isn’t a happily ever after sort of story, but it is a damn good one.
If you want a really, really good review of this book, go here. Otherwise, just take my word for it and read this book.