Eleanor and Park is endearing

2013’s Eleanor and Park was very well received. Photo from amazon.com

2013’s Eleanor and Park was very well received. Photo from amazon.com

Dakota Phillips ’15

Opinions Editor

There is always the classic story of the misfit girl who falls in love with the popular guy, but the story of Eleanor and Park does not fall under that cliché storyline. This love story is about the connection between two misfit teens who are both struggling to find their places in the world. This novel, by Rainbow Rowell, is set in 1986. Eleanor Douglas is a pudgy, red-headed girl with no sense of style who is new to school due to her recent move into her mother’s boyfriend’s house. Park Sheridan is a half-white, half-Korean boy, who takes to music and comic books to escape his reality. When Eleanor has nowhere to sit on the bus, Park reluctantly allows her to sit next to him. This seat neighboring the “cute Asian boy” becomes Eleanor’s permanent spot on the bus. The two end up bonding on these bus rides over Park’s comic books and the music that he listens to through his headphones.

One factor of this novel that I really enjoyed was the setting. Being set in 1986, it was very interesting to spot the differences between teens back then and teens today. I liked reading a story that did not involve elements of technology that are so prominent in today’s society, such as cell phones or computers. The pair did not communicate over text messages; everything between the two was done in person. It made the relationship between Eleanor and Park seem incredibly real.

Eleanor and Park’s home lives differ dramatically in the book. Park lives with his parents, who are happily married, and has one younger brother. Meanwhile, Eleanor lives in a cramped house with her four younger siblings, her mother, and Richie, her mother’s rotten boyfriend.

Most of the scenes in this novel involving Park’s parents made the mood of the story lighter. His mother, who can barely speak English, brought a quirky and comedic feel to the story that I thoroughly appreciated. Throughout the story, Park constantly feels judged by his own father but in the end, his father ends up understanding his son more clearly.

In the meantime, Eleanor has a rough time at home. She is constantly taking care of her younger brothers and sisters. She has no space to herself and she also has to deal with her mother’s abusive boyfriend. The domestic violence in this novel is something that builds throughout the progression of the story. Sadly, school is not muchof a better place for Eleanor. She has to deal with severe bullying from her schoolmates on a daily basis. She is picked on because of the way she dresses, her body shape, her hair, and the fact that she comes from poverty. Her one and only escape from it all is Park.

Initially, I viewed the ending of this story as too much of a cliffhanger, but the more time I spent analyzing it and letting it sink in, it really is not a huge shocker. It makes the reader involve themselves in the story and decide how to interpret the ending for themselves. The reader makes it as fulfilling as they want it to be.

It is beautiful to see the relationship bloom between Eleanor and Park. The two of them find a safe haven within each other which they both desperately needed. Both of them struggling to fit in at home and at school, displays how much each of them needed some sort of release from their hectic worlds. Rowell did an amazing job respectively covering such heavy topics such as bullying, domestic violence, self-image issues, and the never-ending struggle of young love, while making each of these topics feel undeniably sincere. Nothing felt unrealistic, corny, or fake.

I give Eleanor and Park five out of five stars because of the genuine authenticity of the love story between these two misfits.