BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkWow, I sort of wondered … but now I don’t need to anymore, because author Rainbow Rowell has already answered a question (the question for certain readers like me?) that I hadn’t even gotten around to formulating just yet: “Why is Park Korean?” No spoilers here … you’ll have to read the book, then the post (preferably in that order), for yourself. In case you need more prodding to start already, here’s another recent affirming reason: eleanor & park just won the 2013 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (one of the most prestigious kiddie book recognitions) for Fiction. And for those of you going aural, let me assure you that Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra take turns narrating this unlikely romance into heart-thumping, hand-wringing, convincing real life.

In 1986 Omaha, Nebraska, two very different 16-year-olds are about to fall in love for the first time in their young lives. Park, the local, is hapa Korean, gets embarrassed by his parents’ neverending displays of affection, loves punk rock, and used to date the school’s hottest girl back in middle school. Eleanor, the neighborhood newbie with the wild red hair and never-matching outfits, gets stuck sitting next to Park on the bus. She’s just been reunited with her mother and younger siblings, and must navigate through a crowded, unsettling new life trying to stay out of the way of her unpredictable stepfather-from-hell.

After a less-than-friendly start for the two forced-together seatmates, comic books – don’t ever let anyone tell you manga isn’t romance-inducing! – bring the odd couple together. But first love is never easy, especially when families – both inadvertently and intentionally – stand in the way.

Get ready to sigh and snicker, cringe and cry. Those awkward high school moments (decades later, why are they still so familiar??) are all in here, interspersed through an incongruously gorgeous love affair of swooning proportions. Rowell has written that versatile, ageless story with which teens will immediately identity, and oldsters will nostalgically recognize: to the final page and beyond, eleanor & park is one empathetic, adroit achievement.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2013


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