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Book Review: ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

The recently-revealed US cover!
Mixtapes, headphones, and slow-building friendship. Comic books, bus rides, and secret crushes. Guyliner, martial arts, and bullies. Hand-holding, make-out sessions, and first love. Family, despair, and hope… the '80s. Welcome to the world of Rainbow Rowell's ELEANOR & PARK!

Confession: I finished Eleanor & Park at 4:30AM on a work night. In the office at 9AM the next day, I was not so productive. Was it worth it? Depends on who you ask (my boss might have a different answer from me…), but I would yes. Definitely!

Eleanor & Park is the story of two teens growing up and falling in love in 1986 small-town Nebraska. That's the simple way of explaining it. The long way is that it's super difficult to explain in words, just like the explosive, yet fumbling first love experienced by its characters. It's a story that leaps across decades with ease, all so it can break your heart and mend it again (at least, that's what happened to me… is there a support group somewhere I can join?). This book wasn't much like anything I'd read before, and as soon as it comes out, I'll be pushing it on YA-loving friends (and possible converts) like a panic-stricken person handing out apocalypse brochures. That's how worth getting 4 hours of sleep it was! :)

Rainbow Rowell writes with expert flair, but it's hardly noticeable (in a good way). I actually had to pay attention to the typeface to realize just how well-done certain scenes were. The characters seemed too alive and full of voice to really rely on some random writer's words. Their personalities, their voices and their beings just kinda spilled out uncontrollably onto the page (which of course was Rowell's doing). There are moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity (like when Park dons eyeliner for the first time and realizes he looks pretty hot in it), and there are moments of outright, shocking devastation (like when Eleanor has to make a decision that will affect her entire future forever).

Note: This book is jumping
across the Atlantic from the UK. 
Starting out the book, I had reservations. It seemed like it was moving somewhat slowly with the romance. But man, that slowness paid off. My favorite part of Eleanor & Park was probably how the author handled the romance. There was no moment where, after knowing each other for a few days, these two kids swore their undying love for each other. In fact, for a while there, they're strangers who try to steer clear of each other (and not because one of them's a vampire)! Rowell takes her time developing each stage of Eleanor and Park's relationship: from strangers, to close friends, to all-out boyfriend and girlfriend, and everything in between. The result is never boring and always heartbreakingly realistic; each stage is all the more tantalizing because of the development that's led up to it. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with the speedy-love model, but it really was refreshing to read something different.

I won't spoil the ending, but it was… yeah, it was pretty mind-blowing. (Is that a spoiler? If so, sorry!) There are a lot of things that don't happen in Eleanor & Park, and IMO, those things are what makes the story so achingly real - so true to life in all its goodness and sadness - that you can't help but feel that these kids existed once, in the flesh and blood, with their awkwardness and their self-doubt and their passion and their hope.

To make a long review short: check out Eleanor & Park if you're into awesome romances, raw teen emotion (like raw cookie dough, but better!), and achingly real stories. It comes out in the US in April March (whoo!) 2013. Thanks for reading, all!
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Adding to my Goodreads shelf! This sounds fabulous!
    -Katie @ WritingwithCats

  2. Ooh, this sounds SOOO good! I love a slow-building love story. Those are always the best.

  3. I love the paragraph at the top that lists the things that make up the world of Eleanor & Park. This is a great review of an amazing book! I've read it and I agree with you completely...except that the book is set in Omaha, my hometown, which is more like medium-city Nebraska than small-town. ;-)

  4. haha, sorry about that, Bethany!

    Glad you like the review, guys!

    1. No worries! There are just so few books set in Omaha, I felt the need to clarify. ;-)

      That was an extremely minor quibble about an otherwise stellar review, I feel I should stress. I think this was my favorite part:

      "The characters seemed too alive and full of voice to really rely on some random writer's words. Their personalities, their voices and their beings just kinda spilled out uncontrollably onto the page (which of course was Rowell's doing)."

  5. This sounds wonderful, it's definitely on my list and it's already out in the UK - yay!

  6. I haven't read many romance novels recently because of my oh-so-angsty singleness but this sounds like something I'd really like. The simple US cover's great in a hipster kind of way; me gusta.
    I want to buy the US version ASAP, but seeing as I'm gonna be in the home stretch of high school (senior arts portfolios and COLLEGE APPS and whatnot), it looks like April 2013 is a good release date. :)

  7. I saw the UK cover on another blog several days ago, then saw the US cover, and I'm so in love! Excited to get into this story, I was completely sold just by the description on GR. I haven't read her other novel, Attachments, but have also heard great things about that one, too.

    I'm ready for some heartbreaking realism. Even more excited because of this review!

  8. Awesome review, makes me want to turn off my laptop and read it right away. Another book suggestion would be Cameo by Tanille. Awesome read as well!

  9. I was blown away by this book-it moved me so deeply and actually left me hugging it (well my nook with e-ARC on it) because of all the feelings.

    Marlene Detierro (CashFund)


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Item Reviewed: Book Review: ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater