Anne’s Book Club 06

EleanorandParkRainbowRowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (summary by

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

My thoughts on Eleanor & Park:

This is a book to break my heart. So much of Eleanor’s story was like reading my own. I was bullied in school for everything from my high grades to my clothes (Maybe deservedly so, as I wore boys’ flannels, baseball caps, and was overweight—easy target). I got in fistfights, mouthed off to anyone who tried to get too close, and still bear the scars on my arms from other girls’ fingernails. BUT! This book isn’t just about a girl being bullied. It’s about a budding friendship, comics, mix tapes, and love. It’s about broken families, being poor, and fear. It’s about finding someone to share all of that with who won’t push you away.

“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 something.”

Like I said, a book to break my heart.

Eleanor’s the new girl on the school bus. No one dares share a seat with the weirdly-dressed overweight girl with enormous red hair. She’s forced to sit next to Park. He’s the only not-fully-white boy in the city of Omaha, it seems—aside from his mother and brother—and he doesn’t push her away. My Park was Filipino. He taught me French and piano. He shared musicals and fell asleep on the other end of the phone line. And both of our Parks,

“… made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”

The book runs over the course of a school year. It’s been accused of insta-love, but I strongly disagree. It begins with Eleanor reading comics over Park’s shoulder on the bus. (I would have 100% done this. I love comics. They’re problematic and magical.) He realizes that he could share his geek with someone else, and continues to let her read until one day he lets her borrow a stack of them. She tries to refuse, to keep the walls she’s built around herself intact. Park’s insistent, and a brick crumbles down. It leads to him sharing his Walkman headphones. Another brick falls. Which leads to him making her mixtapes and letting her borrow his batteries. Bricks tumble down. Which leads to friendship. Her walls are gone, but she’s still hesitant, unsure, and so very very real. Which leads to attraction. Which leads to love. It’s not love at first sight on the bus. It’s slow and beautiful and sad and fleeting.

Eleanor & Park is a book to heal your broken heart.

I’ve already put holds on all the books by Rainbow Rowell at my library. I urge you to read this one. Are there any books you identify with?