I was (and still am) in the middle of Richard Wright's Native Son which is very good but also very intense. I needed a break but didn't know what to go with and thought this would be the perfect time to pick up a book that I would love. Something I could power through. And I finally picked up Eleanor & Park. And I loved it. Loooooooooooooooved it. I'll try to keep the gushing to a minimum.
Eleanor & Park is a YA (blah) love story (double blah) but it's so good. I'd say it's unlike any other YA love story, except see those "blahs" above, so I don't really have a good baseline comparison. That said, I'll go ahead and say that this is unlike other YA love stories. Eleanor and Park (and Park's parents, and Eleanor's siblings) feel so real and they dance on cliches without ever falling into them.
It's a romance between two people from different worlds, but no one in Park's world is keeping him from Eleanor. And those in Eleanor's world are keeping her from everyone, not just Park. And by "those" I mean, her asshole alcoholic abusive asshole stepfather. Asshole.
Before I read the book I pretty much just knew that Eleanor is a big red-head (the kids call her Big Red) and poor and no on likes her, and Park is half-Korean, but managed to be popular. It takes place in Omaha in 1986 and involves good music and comic books. I knew it was about teenage love but it's more than that. It's about first love and the intensity in every touch and every look.
I don't really know what else to say that isn't going to devolve into just "OMG THIS IS SO GOOD ARE YOU READING IT YET WHY AREN'T YOU READING IT READ IT" But if you need some other reasons to read this (as if me yelling it at you wasn't enough reason) then enjoy these quotes. And know it took me forever to figure out which quotes to include because I highlighted so many
All [Eleanor's mother's] bones seemed more purposeful than other people's. Like they weren't just there to hold her up; they were there to make a point.
[Romeo & Juliet] was 'Oh my God, he's so cute' at first sight. If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn't tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline....It's Shakespeare making fun of love," [Eleanor] said.
"Then why has it survived?"...
"Because..." [Park] said quietly, looking at his desk, "because people want to remember what it's like to be young? And in love?"
"Nobody gets enough," [Park's mom] said. "Nobody gets what they need. When you're always hungry, you get hungry in your head." She tapped her forehead. "You know?"
Park wasn't sure what to say.
"You don't know," she said, shaking her head. "I don't want you to know...I'm sorry."
Please also know that I took 2 notes while reading:
"OMG I fucking love Eleanor
"Aaand now I love Park."
Also, I was excited for a red-headed lead. I didn't realize I'd be so excited to learn that she also has brown eyes. But I was. Enough to bug Rowell on Twitter with lots of exclamation points that she made a red-headed, brown-eyed character because SERIOUSLY, NOT ALL RED HEADS HAVE GREEN OR BLUE EYES. (Oh are you wondering if my eyes are dark brown? Maaaaaaybe.)
I loved this book. And warning, it made me cry, or at least tear up. On the subway. But it was so good it was OK.
Title quote from page 165, location 2427
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin's Griffin, 2013