Retro Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Proof that there is an exception to my young adult dislike.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Young Adult Fiction, 328 Pages
Released February 2013
Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

My Thoughts

Awww. This is such a great book about first love and the reality of having really shitty parents when everyone else’s home life seems so “normal”. Where was it when I was fifteen? I would’ve loved and adored it and carried it with me wherever I went. It would’ve made me feel better, given me hope and made me smile when things were so awful I wanted to be anywhere but home. I bought the hardcover for my teen after reading numerous glowing reviews but decided to read it too even though I promised myself I’d stay away from YA after that heart destroying experience that was The Fault In Our Stars. I’m glad I did because even though I’m a few decades older than the target audience I thought it was a lovely story. So far my teen loves it too.

It’s 1986 and Eleanor has recently moved back in with her family. There is no room for her anywhere, it seems. She sleeps in a small bedroom with her four younger siblings, doesn’t even have a toothbrush and has to make do with the ill-fitting scraps of clothing her mother brings home from thrift shops. When she steps foot on the school bus everyone notices her but no one makes room to let her sit down. She’s dressed weird, her hair is wild and bright red and Park can hear the snickering all around him. Impulsively he moves over and rudely barks at her to sit down. He instantly regrets it but now she’s sitting there and she’s not all happy about it. Now they’re stuck with each other for the rest of the school year and it changes everything for both of them.

Day after day they ignore each other on the long bus ride. Park is half Korean and, though he’s always lived his entire life with these kids, he’s never felt like he fits in. Befriending Eleanor (Big Red as she’s been dubbed) will instantly make him an outcast. But befriend her he does and it happens so naturally it never feels forced, fake or rushed. Their friendship starts out slowly and is based on their mutual love of his comic books and music Eleanor owns nothing and he shares. Eleanor is opinionated, funny and sarcastic and he likes being around her. All the time. She likes him too. He’s kind of adorable. Their friendship/love story is awkward and sweet and filled with that angsty, gut-wrenching out of control emotion that first love inevitably brings. It’s also completely believable because of the way it’s told from both of their points of view. Alas, complications arise as they will when you’re a teen and not at all in control of your life but I won’t give those away. You should read the book if any of this interests you. It’s a really good one!

The version I listened to on audio was read by two narrators who switched off depending on whose point of view was up. I liked this in theory because I never questioned whose head I was in which can be a problem when listening to audio BUT (oh, you just knew that was coming) the female narrator, Rebecca Lowman, has a lifeless delivery that did such a dis-service to an emotional, lively character like Eleanor. The male narrator, Sunil Malhotra, does a better job with Park. His voice is youthful and his take on Park’s Korean mom cracked me up but he tends to get a little monotonous at times too. The narration wasn’t a deal breaker and didn’t by any means ruin the book for me but it could’ve been improved.I would've been better off reading my daughter's copy. Ah well.

Some of my most favorite quotes:

“She never looked nice. She looked like art and art wasn’t supposed to look nice. It was supposed to make you feel something.”

“He’d thought he was over caring about what people thought of him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He kept finding new ways to betray her.”

“I don’t like you. I need you.”

Ahhh, first love! Five stars because I’m feeling easy today and this is one I’ll want to revisit.

My Daughter Says This Is Another Good One:

Rainbow Rowell
A Bit About the Author

Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

More at

Read February 2014


  1. I loved Eleanor & Park when I read it. I thought it was really good and agree, where were these books when I was younger? I don't even think they had YA then.

    1. All I had were horror novels (which I loved) and those cheesy romance series that I'd also read ;)

  2. Glad you had such a great experience with it. I haven't read it yet, but know it's a must.

  3. I started Fangirl but it wasn't working for me and I set it aside. 2 or 3 years ago lol

    One day I'll get back to that and read E&P which is on my kindle.

    There are so many YA books out there right now that would been a lifeline for teen me. I'm glad kids at least have them now.

    For What It's Worth


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