I absolutely love Rainbow’s writing style and I knew this from the first time I read one of her books. My first Rainbow book was Fangirl, an adorable teen contemporary about twins who go to college together and begin to drift apart. The story was sweet and relatable and dealt with real life issues that were in no way over dramatised or heightened. Fangirl left me wanting more to the story, and of course, Eleanor & Park left me the same way but I feel differently about them when I really think about it. I actually don’t want more. These books are perfect and the endings are perfect the way they are which makes me hope that she never decides to write sequels to them. I think Rainbow Rowell has a wonderful style and she makes a single 300-page novel so captivating!
Eleanor has been living away from home for a year because her stepdad kicked her out when her mother comes to get her at long last and tells Eleanor it’s time to come home. While Eleanor missed home, it’s not a place she really wants to be: sharing a room with all of her siblings in a tiny house with a footless bathroom and an abusive stepfather. I wanted to smack Eleanor’s mother upside the head several times during this novel because she was not seeing that there were people and ways to save her family from this stupid butt head named Richie. she was so set on just keeping things the way they were even though she was being beaten by Richie over ridiculous things several times a week. If Eleanor tried to help and called the police, she faced the wrath of Richie.
When Eleanor starts at her new school, she is immediately labelled as the weird girl. She dresses strangely (because what she wears is all she has) and she’s got bright red hair and is a little on the chubby side. She is bullied relentlessly in gym class by the school’s resident mean girl, Tina, and tries to hide all the crap that’s happening in her life under a strong exterior.
She begins her relationship with Park by being forced to choose the seat next to him on the bus on her first day. She then starts reading the graphic novels he brings to occupy himself over Park’s shoulder and soon he allows her to take some home with her. They have a relationship built on trade at first, he gives her comic books to take home and she brings them back the next day so he’ll give her more. It’s very professional, hardly any speaking at all. Then one day they decide to talk to each other, which leads to laughing and bonding and hand holding. Park quickly falls for Eleanor and she for him. So begins the romance of Eleanor and Park.
Spoilers below so watch out!
My rating: 5 stars
Eleanor feels very alone in her house and I felt so bad for her throughout the entire novel. She starts off with no one and everyone bullies her at school. When Park finally warms up to her and becomes her friend I felt so much better about her life because at least Park’s family likes her and can give her some escape from her terrible household. I also liked that she found a couple of friends in gym class after the horrible pad prank the mean girls played on her, but Beebi and DeNice were very kind to her afterwards and became her gym/lunch buddies for the rest of the school year.
I thought the development of Park and Eleanor’s romantic relationship was so adorable, like everything a girl could ever hope for with her first relationship (or any relationship really). They started off small, just reading comics together and talking about commonalities on the bus, he starts walking her to her locker and it’s so cute that she is just infinitely invited to Park’s house for dinner by his dad because at least she gets good food there. Park is so kind to her and he stands up for her against the bullies, kicking steve in the face and constantly getting angry that his girlfriend is being tortured by their classmates. He makes her mixtapes of music he knows she’ll like and she plays them on repeat all night until she falls asleep. Just so cute!
I. Hate. Richie. He’s absolutely awful. The fact that Eleanor’s mother feels like she needs to stay with him actually baffles me. He abuses her almost every night, and those poor children all huddled together unable to do anything to help for fear of being murdered by Richie himself. I was so glad that Eleanor’s aunt and uncle were devising a way to help the rest of the children and her mother out of that house and away from Richie. They were finally going to get help from people who care and who can actually do something from outside the situation. It was quite a relief fr the readers to see that as the ending of the stroy. In a way, I would say that was the story’s happy ending even though Park and Eleanor are indefinitely separated (it had already been a year at the end of the novel).
I thought it was a bit cliche that Eleanor got all Park’s letters but didn’t open or respond to any of them. She was doing the stupid girl-who’s-in-love-but-she-can’t-face-the-facts-or-even-try thing. Like at least give it a shot don’t just leave the poor guy hanging right? but anyways, I still freaked out when the last line said the postcard she sent only had three words on it because the first thought is obviously that those three words are “I love you.” I appreciated that.
Overall, this was another cute, fun summer read! Let me know what you thought in the comments!