Eleanor and Park was on a wish-list my brilliant and beautiful granddaughter, Q, wanted for Christmas. I’ve seen the book touted on blogs and GoodReads but didn’t really pay attention. Before buying it for her I checked it out. I decided I’d like to read the book myself.
Eleanor and Park are two fictional sixteen-year-olds living in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1980s. These two are like no one I’ve met before, yet their story took me back to my own teen years. It made me remember what it was like to be in love for the first time – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Eleanor and Park met on the bus on the way to high school. Eleanor was the new girl and Park was the only one to let her sit down next to him. They have a couple of honors classes together but their friendship develops on the bus.
Eleanor doesn’t fit in with the other kids. She has shaggy red hair, is overweight, and wears outrageous clothes. The really heartbreaking part is her family situation. Her four siblings and her mom live with an abusive and scary guy. All five kids are in one bedroom with only one set of bunkbeds, there’s no door on the bathroom, and not much to eat.
Park lives around the corner from Eleanor but his family life is miles apart. His parents are loving but strict. His dad met and married his mom when he was in the Korean War. As a half-Asian high schooler in Omaha, Park doesn’t exactly fit in either.
The first few weeks after Eleanor and Park meet they don’t really talk or even make eye contact. But, Park sees Eleanor eyeing his comics. He arranges them so she can read them and then sends some home with her. The bond is completed over their compatible music tastes, sense of humor, and values.
As their relationship grows, Eleanor enjoys the acceptance of Park’s family. Park’s mom is a real gem. But as time goes on, problems with Eleanor’s step-father escalate until there is a point where Eleanor must make a decision for herself and her siblings.
This touching and sometimes heartbreaking story is one I suggest you not miss. The author’s ability to take her readers inside the lives of two amazing teenagers is spectacular. Read it and you’ll thank me as I now thank my granddaughter.
Note: An excellent review of this novel can be found on the NY Times website here. The review is written by none other than author John Green (The Fault In Our Stars).