When I first came across Eleanor & Park on Just Deenie, I immediately added it to my TBR list. Thanks to Amazon’s one-click checkout function, the next thing I knew I had the book in my hands, ready for an autumnal read.
Eleanor & Park is billed as a coming-of-age, YA novel. With its dreamy strapline – ‘You never forget your first love,’ – I was primarily intrigued by the whole first love concept.
Eleanor is the new girl in town. She’s the awkward, red-headed and style-sensitive teenage with a disrupted home life and she’s just moved back in with her mother and mother’s latest partner. She meets Park on a school bus and the rest, is history.
The story opens in 1986 and is immediately beautifully, brilliantly nostalgic. Granted I wasn’t alive in the 80s, but Rowell’s writing captures the mood perfectly. I found myself plunged into their world with aching realism and within a matter of moments found myself relating to protagonist Eleanor.
A fiction-famous First Bus Ride sets the story in motion. Eleanor takes a seat beside Park and the incomparable first friendship and manic school life cycle begins.
Park is mysterious. He’s quiet, careful and cool. He’s equally rejected and accepted by the social elite at school, and thus holds an incredible enviable position. Eleanor is less popular. Yet slowly and steadily, the pair fall in love.
What unfolds next is no usual boy-meets-girl story. In fact it is a pretty meaty read and there’s a lot to unpack. Eleanor & Park is an enjoyable, relatable and inherently easy-to-read novel, and yet the plot effortlessly weaves in all kinds of themes.
The overarching teenage, first love trope is meticulously blended with sad, shocking and heartbreaking issues that touch so many.
I raced through this wonderful YA novel and loved it. A perfect winter read for solo evenings or frosty morning commutes.