I love this book, and what a relief it is to be able to say that again. I’ve been in something of reading drought, and this book was like a little oasis.
I love this book for the title (it sounds like an intersection, as in “Meet me at the corner of Eleanor and Park.”). I love the characters. I love that Park is partly Korean and not really sure what that means. I love that most of the people in the book are generally trying to be good, even when they don’t always succeed. I love the relationship between Park’s parents. I love the subtle 80s allusions that don’t hit you over the head but are delightful all the same. I love the ways in which the intersections between gender, race and social class hover around the edges of this story. I love that Eleanor is not skinny and that Park doesn’t care. I love the honesty with which Rowell depicts the lustiness of teenagers. I love Rainbow Rowell’s name (you can never go wrong with R alliterations). I love pretty much everything about this book except that it ended.
The back cover describes this young adult novel as Sixteen Candles meets Looking for Alaska. I haven’t read Looking for Alaska. Of course I’ve seen Sixteen Candles, and I can see the comparison. I would throw in Romeo and Juliet, only with a much more convincing love story. Also, perhaps Ready Player One and High Fidelity–the website offers you a musical soundtrack to the novel, which is such a great idea.
There are a lot, lot, lot of supernatural, fantastical, science fiction, dystopian young adult and middle grade novels out there. Sometimes it seems like that’s all there is out there. A lot of these books are very good. But it’s so refreshing to read an incredibly well-crafted young adult novel with absolutely nothing scarier happening than the things of real life. Sometimes the real life things are plenty scary enough. It is so refreshing to read a young adult novel that has no gimmick, no high concept. It’s a just a boy and a girl in the 80s, falling in love. Sometimes you can forget how deeply satisfying those stories are when they’re well done.
I read this book as an Advanced Reading Copy, dug out of the piles at my local bookstore, Village Lights, which they so generously allow me to do from time to time. Eleanor and Park will be available in March 2013. Pre-order a copy now or tell your local library to put it on their list.