Summary and book reviews of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell X
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love - and just how hard it pulled you under.

*Since its publication, Eleanor & Park has been criticized for its stereotypical, racist and harmful portrayal of Korean Americans. The decision to move ahead with a film adaptation of the book despite this issue has met with additional criticism.

Winner of the BookBrowse 2013 Best Young Adult Book Award

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I'm not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we're 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet? Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I'm not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love - and just how hard it pulled you under.

1
park

XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.

Park pressed his headphones into his ears.

Tomorrow he was going to bring Skinny Puppy or the Misfits. Or maybe he'd make a special bus tape with as much screaming and wailing on it as possible.

He could get back to New Wave in November, after he got his driver's license. His parents had already said Park could have his mom's Impala, and he'd been saving up for a new tape deck. Once he started driving to school, he could listen to whatever he wanted or nothing at all, and he'd get to sleep in an extra twenty minutes.

"That doesn't exist!" somebody shouted behind him.

"It so fucking does!" Steve shouted back. "Drunken Monkey style, man, it's a real fucking thing. You can kill somebody with it.…"

"You're full of shit."

"You're full of shit," Steve said. "Park! Hey, Park."

Park heard him, but didn't answer. Sometimes, if you ignored Steve for a minute, he moved on to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Eleanor says she and Park are too young for true love. Do you believe that? Do you think Eleanor believes that?
  2. How do Eleanor and Park's parents shape their outlook on relationships and the future?
  3. Is Eleanor's mother a good mother? Why does she stay with Richie?
  4. Why does Park's mother change her mind about Eleanor?
  5. How is Park's relationship with his mother different from his relationship with his father? Who sees Park more clearly, his father or his mother?
  6. Why is Park embarrassed by Eleanor? Is his embarrassment a betrayal?
  7. Steve says that he's Park's friend - is he a true friend? Are Steve and Tina good guys or bad guys in the story? Do you think Eleanor and Tina could ever be friends?
  8. How would Eleanor and Park's relationship...
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  • award image

    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2014

  • award image

    BookBrowse Awards
    2013

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In the end, I had a deep sense of who Eleanor and Park were – as individual notes and as a song. A punk rock song. A little dissonant, a little loud, but a song I wanted to sing along with, one of those songs that gets under my skin and matches the beat of my own heart...continued

Full Review (891 words).

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(Reviewed by Tamara Ellis Smith).

Media Reviews

John Green, New York Times
I have never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park. Rainbow Rowell’s first novel for young adults is a beautiful, haunting love story — but I have seen those. It’s set in 1986, and God knows I’ve seen that. There’s bullying, sibling rivalry, salvation through music and comics, a monstrous stepparent — and I know, we’ve seen all this stuff. But you’ve never seen Eleanor & Park. Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading.

NPR
Eleanor & Park is a book about two teenagers who fall in love. But more than that, it's about feeling lost — because of bullying, because of abuse, because of race — and feeling loved. It captures the pure, visceral thrill of a high school swoon, but it never forgets that those feelings are real and important. Rowell's willingness to portray real ugliness and real pain means that when Eleanor and Park are daring to hope for something wonderful for themselves, the stakes feel enormous. It's called a young adult book, and indeed, it's a fine thing to give a sensitive kid. But there's nothing unsophisticated or less than serious about this empathetic, beautifully rendered novel.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.

VOYA
This is a stunning debut from a promising new author.

Booklist
Starred Review. The pure, fear-laced, yet steadily maturing relationship Eleanor and Park develop is urgent and breathtaking and, of course, heartbreaking, too.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rowell keeps things surprising, and the solution - imperfect but believable - maintains the novel's delicate balance of light and dark.

Reader Reviews

i love this book

BEST BOOk
I just finished reading it and i am depressed, this book was simply wonderful. The way the book represents Parks and Eleanor's love for each other is simply amazing. A little dissatisfied with the ending.

Felizia Irwin

perfect
it somehow relates to me every time i get to remember someone from my past. and of course, reading this book is a must before laying down in a coffin.

Debra

Excellent Story
This young adult book is an excellent story about a teenage girl living with an unpredictable alcoholic stepfather. And a teenage boy who falls for her without knowing what is going on with her family. Every person has a story that no one can see by ...   Read More

Kayla

absolutely loved it!
This book was amazing! I could never stop reading once I begun. I seriously love this book, I can and will never stop loving this book. I hope this book becomes a movie. If it does I'm going to be the first one seated, right in front.

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Beyond the Book

The Playlist for Eleanor and Park

In my review of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, I suggest that if the novel were a song, it would be a punk rock song. I hold firm to that idea.

A brief (if incomplete) lesson on punk rock music: First, as is true with the birth of most genres of anything (music, art, architecture, etc.), pinpointing the beginning is tough, if not impossible. But most people believe that punk rock started in the '60s. A response to the flower-power hippie movement of the same era, it was nihilistic, loud and mad. The bands were made up of garage musicians – musicians who had little or no training and who didn't know the "rules" of music, so they broke them. A strong DIY philosophy was a cornerstone of the movement. Performances were raw. The music ...

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Readalikes

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