Eleanor and Park first meet up on the school bus. Eleanor is the awkward new girl everyone on the bus has decided they are going to be mean to. Park likes to sit by himself and get lost in the music he listens to on his Walkman, but he feels sorry for Eleanor and lets her sit down by him. Soon Park notices that Eleanor is reading the comic books he brings on the bus. Soon after that he starts lending her comic books and soon after that they become friends.
Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is a nice change from the gazillion dystopia novels that have shown up in the young adult section the last number of years. I’ve enjoyed several of the dystopia series, but it’s nice to read something not set in the future. In the case of Eleanor & Park it seems to be set in the past, perhaps the late eighties or early nineties.
The book alternates between Eleanor’s point of view and Park’s points of view. I was thoroughly charmed by the first two-thirds of Eleanor & Park, but the book’s last one-hundred or so pages seemed to drag. I think a lot of this had to do with Park’s character development. Apparently he is some combination of saint and superhero. I guess this is possible, there are certainly amazing people in the world, but reading about someone who seems to have no doubts about the relationship he is in does not make for compelling reading. It was almost as if some of the later Park sections of the book were being written by Eleanor. The book’s last third also suffers because not a whole lot happens. It’s nice that Rowell gives the sense that the reader is hanging out with the main characters but hanging out can get kind of boring. Despite these complaints, Eleanor & Park is definitely worth reading. Rowell has a fresh voice and a great knack for coming up with quirky yet believable characters. I could see Eleanor & Park becoming a young adult classic on par with The Perks of Being a Wallflower.