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Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell You can also find my review at Brandie is a Bookjunkie.

I was a wreck after finishing this book. I probably won’t be able to put into words how this book made me feel, but here goes.

This was a slow read for me, but not in a negative way. It was slow because I was on emotional overload and I had to take breaks from it when it was breaking my heart. Which was pretty much the entire book. I say this with love, though, because I adored this book so much.

Eleanor is different – a little overweight, with fire red hair, who dresses hideously most of the time – she gets bullied and picked on constantly. Her home life is horrible and she has no escape from it – until Park comes into her life and becomes her escape.

Park comes from a really sweet, normal family. His dad met his mom overseas while in the military and fell madly in love. Being half Asian – Park has delt with being ‘different’ his whole life but he embraces it. He almost always wears all black, loves comic books and punk music – he likes to stand out and be himself. Even though he’s not super popular, he’s well-liked and flies under the radar most of the time.

Then Eleanor gets on his bus and has nowhere to sit – and he does the noble, albeit embarrassing, thing of offering up part of his seat for her. At first he feels sorry for her and thinks she’s just asking for people to make fun of her, by the way she looks and acts. Then over time, as they sit on the bus together each day, he shows her little acts of kindnesses – sharing his comics, letting her listen to his Walkman – and he starts to see a side of Eleanor that he really likes. An unlikely friendship forms into the sweetest of loves, and Eleanor finds her salvation in Park.

My heart HURT for this girl. Having been a victim of bullying early in my life – I kind of know what it feels like. It is tragic how mean kids can be and how out of hand bullying has gotten over the years. Then you add Eleanor’s awful stepdad and living situation to the mix and you cannot help but feel horrible for this girls situation. So when Park befriends her and gets her to see some good in this world – it is amazing. My heart was bursting for these two and their growing friendship. I wanted so much for Eleanor to have some peace and happiness in her life. A child should never have to grow up living the horrors that she’s lived.

Park – the sweetest, kindest teenager ever written. He was awkward in his own ways and had his own minor self-esteem issues. But his kindness toward Eleanor melted me. How he encouraged her to come out of her shell and made her feel beautiful and loved and wanted – something she’s never had in her life – it was truly wonderful.

That ending – although it was hard, it was perfect. I wouldn’t have had it end any other way. I knew it was going to be an emotional end, but I was okay with it. It really was a perfect ending.

A part of the book that resonated with me at the end was when Park was thinking about his parents relationship. How important their love was to him and how positively it has impacted him over the years.

“He loved how much they loved each other. It was the thing he thought about when he woke up scared in the middle of the night. Not that they loved him – they were his parents, they had to love him. That they loved each other. They didn’t have to do that. None of his friend’s parents were still together, and in every case that seemed like the number one thing that had gone wrong with his friend’s lives. But Park’s parents loved each other. They kissed each other on the mouth, no matter who was watching. What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back?”

I had to highlight this entire passage in my Kindle because it hit me hard. It was the example they set for Park that taught him how to love despite someone’s differences - to show kindness and compassion. And it was that love that he showed to Eleanor that gave her hope and a reason every day.

I don’t think I can ever do this book justice with my review. But Rainbow Rowell is now on my list of authors who’s books are must reads the minute they are released. I was truly moved and touched by this book and her ability to put into words how it really felt to be an awkward teenager in the 80’s. To be that kid who’s not popular, or rich, or gorgeous – but still able to find their sunshine in a world of darkness.

“The first time he’d held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.”