Eleanor and Park (Eleanor & Park)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Summary: Eleanor and Park have read Romeo and Juliet. They know that young love fades and is unachievable, but yet they still can’t resist each other. Park is a quiet Asian boy who is trying to disappear to avoid the drama of high school. When Eleanor, a large, red-headed girl, steps onto his schoolbus, he is embarrassed for her and wonders why she wouldn’t just dress “normally.” Eleanor has nowhere to sit and as the kids make fun of her and she looks beaten down and broken, Park, disgustedly, angrily tells her to just sit down in his seat. What he doesn’t realize then is that Eleanor will change his life.

Kellee’s Review: I love how slowly this book happens. It is like a pot of boiling water. It started out cold and then got warmer before it began boiling. This book is not a Twilight romance of love at first site; it is a true romance about getting to know each other and realizing that first impressions aren’t always correct.

Told in Eleanor and Park’s point of views, you get a 360 degree picture of the intensity of feelings that are happening. It is also through both of these point of views that you get to know both characters quite well and not just one side of the romance. The only negative is that I felt that both sides were only partially explored because of the two points of view. I wanted to know more about Eleanor’s past and I wanted to understand more why Park’s dad was disappointed in him. However, I know that if the story was only told by one of them, the whole story would not have been told.

My only issue is the end. It is what kept me from gushing about the book like others. I cannot talk about it here as it is spoiler, but I wish it had slowed down and matched the pace and tone of the rest of the book. I know there are many that disagree with me. After finishing I had a couple discussions on Twitter with tweeps who had finished the book and they all disagreed with me. But, as @katsok pointed out to me, “Books belong to the reader”, so I am sticking with how I feel. I would, though, LOVE to talk to Rainbow about the ending because I am so intrigued to learn about her decision making.

Ricki’s Review: I loved the subtle nuances of this book. While some readers might find this book to be a bit cheesy, Rowell intentionally uses languages to show the minute details of life. The imagery is stunning–readers are easily able to imagine themselves in each of the scenes. Eleanor and Park are realistic teenagers. Eleanor doesn’t have long, flowy blond hair, and Park isn’t clad with giant biceps and shaggy hair that sweeps across his brow. Teens will see themselves in the insecurities and feelings of these two beautiful people.

I know some readers have discussed they are dissatisfied with the end of the book (like Kellee), but I found it to be perfect. It makes the reader think, and I love books that make me think critically. I loved how the story didn’t just focus on the romance between Eleanor and Park. Their families were powerful influences on all of their emotions and actions. Both Eleanor and Park have qualities that make them unlikeable, and the English teacher in me kept screaming, “YES! These are truly round characters! I have to show my students sample passages to prove that characters can be just like people.”

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The language and sentence structure would make this a a fantastic choice for close analysis. The stylistic choices would make for rich class discussions. Teachers might consider assigning different pages for groups of students to analyze and then jigsawing to discuss Rowell’s language and style. Teachers might consider asking students to compare and contrast this book with other romances. They might discover that this is a more realistic love story, while other romances are a bit more idealistic. A good discussion could be had by looking at how Eleanor and Park dealt/felt about a situation since you have both points of view. It would also be a lot of fun to take a scene from the book and have the students rewrite it as if it took place in the 21st century.

Discussion Questions: How does this text differ from other contemporary romances?; Will a romantic teen relationship inevitably fail? Are Eleanor and Park doomed?; How do the characters’ home lives affect who they are as people?; How does Rowell effectively use language to convey the story?; How might the story be different if it was set twenty years later, in the current time period?; What do you think the 3 words are?

We Flagged: “Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive. As soon as he touched her, he wondered how he’d gone this long without doing it.” (p. 71)

“‘I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,’ she whispered. ‘Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath.'” (p. 111)

“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel like something. Eleanor sitting next to him on the couch made Park feel like someone had opened a window in the middle of the room. Like someone had replaced all the air in the room with brand-new, improved air (now with twice the freshness). Eleanor made him feel like something was happening. Even when they were just sitting on the couch.” (p. 165)

Read This If You Loved: The Fault in our Stars  by John Green, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Recommended For:

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We both loved this one. What did you think?

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10 Responses to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Holly Mueller says:

    LOVED this book! I listened to it on audio, which was fantastic! I, too, thought the ending was intriguing and would also love to hear about it from Rainbow. Have you e-mailed her to ask?

    • Ricki Ginsberg says:

      That is a great point! I didn’t think about doing that. For me, the ending fit really well. It satisfied me. Kellee might consider emailing her about it though. I know she felt the pacing was off.

  2. Linda Baie says:

    I waited to read this until I finished the book. I agree that there was so much that was real, so much for (especially) teens to adore. And the imagery was beautifully done. I loved it, but do wonder if another is in the future? Is it finished?

    • Ricki Ginsberg says:

      I think it is finished, but you make a great point. I could certainly read another book about E&P. Perhaps–one written 20 years later in current times?

  3. Earl Dizon says:

    Just finished it and wanted to see what other bloggers I knew thought of it. I was so worried the whole time I was reading it of what was going to happen at the end for some reason. I thought it was going to be another one of those YA novels where one of the main characters dies or gets seriously injured- purely as an emotional moment for the reader to have. Without spoiling anything, the ending was what it needed to be. Everything about the book seemed so real. The characters came alive and I guess that’s why I was so protective of them. Their situations (in school and at home) rang true. No one was treated any more special (or celebrated for their differences) than they needed to be despite the fact that this is a wonderful love story about two misfits who each find a sense of belonging with one another.

    • Ricki Ginsberg says:

      Earl, I think you touch upon what I like the most about this book–it is so very real. There isn’t an emotional ending for the sake of an emotional ending. It is a story that could exist among our students, and it doesn’t depict people in a way that is unbelievable or even ideal. Thanks for reminding me of this. Your post took me right back to the story, and I was back with these two friends again.

  4. Wendy says:

    Last year after one family complained that their daughter accessed this book at school, we were all required to “remove it from the building.” I teach at a 7-8 middle school. I’m curious as to what others think about having this on the shelves (not as part of the curriculum) for 12-14 year olds.

    • Kellee says:

      This is a tough one. I never think it is okay to just blatantly banish a book from a building. What if that book is the perfect book for someone? We label books YA in our school library and then in our classroom libraries we send home a letter reminding parents that we have a wide variety of texts in our classroom. So far *knock on wood* this has allowed us to keep books for all readers.

    • I agree with Kellee. It is never okay to censor books. I do think that certain books may not be age-appropriate, but students mature at different ages. I think knowing the student is the most important way to make decisions. My students often self-censor because they know they aren’t ready for a text.

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