Our book club pick last month was “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. It was picked by the lovely Holli. Holli and I generally have the same taste in books, so I had high expectations. This book did not disappoint. I really enjoyed it.
The book is a teenage romance set in the 1980s. I will say that although the book is about teenagers, I probably would not let my daughter read this until she is sixteen. It does have some explicit language and phrases that might offend some. It did not offend me. I did not even notice the language until it was brought up at book club.
Eleanor and Park are both sixteen. Eleanor is a tall, voluptuous red-head who feels self conscience and does not fit in. Park is a half-Korean half-American boy who also feels set apart as the only Korean kid in his school. They meet on the school bus. And their slow friendship is so beautifully written, you will feel the moments that turn into sparks between them.
The book centers around their romance. And all that love can endure. I think maybe love might be even harder as a teenager.
I had never heard of Rainbow Rowell before. But I enjoyed her writing so much I ordered her other book, “Fan Girl.” It is coming on Monday. Unlike the book I picked this month for book club (more on that soon), this author makes you really feel with the characters. It is what makes a good author a great one. Rainbow has that ability. She produces beautiful words.
As in any book, this book would be incredibly dull without some angst. Or some drama. And show me a teenager who does not have both of those situations occurring on a regular basis and I will lend you my pet unicorn for the day. Of course, Eleanor and Park have to endure all of that. I read it in two days. It is an easy worthwhile read. I would give the book a nine out of ten.
The characters. Eleanor and Park became living, breathing friends of mine. They made me cry. They made me angry. But the secondary characters were equally solidly built. Park’s parents, well, you are going to love them. Eleanor’s parents made me want to kick and scream. And the kids on the bus will bring back every teenage anxiety you have ever felt.
The writing was easy. I enjoy easy. Life is hard enough. I want to read a book smooth as pudding. With a glass of ice cold flow. The sweetness tickled the back of my throat as it went down.
The ending. It is kind of a cliff hanger. I do not know if it will make you angry. I think it was the perfect ending. I did not find it to be such a cliff hanger as others have felt it was. The author has also hinted that this might not be the last we see of Eleanor and Park.
Poverty. I sometimes forget in my little bubble how incredibly hard some children have it. And this leads me to feel immensely guilty and grateful all at once. There is a part in the book that centers around hygiene. And it broke my heart in two. I made myself put the book down for a good hour so my soul could give it the attention it deserved. And reflect on what I could do more of as a human being to help end moments like that for other children.
“Eleanor & Park” is a small book that will make you feel big things.
Have you read this book? What book/books are you reading this month?