You never forget your first love, goes the tagline on Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. I’m hoping I’ll never forget Eleanor & Park, one of the sweetest, most powerful books I’ve read in a while.
Eleanor is the weird new girl at school, worried about her weight and her looks (which lead to bullying) and her family (abusive stepdad). Park is the quiet boy on the bus, from a not-so all-American family (and he’s not quite sure where he fits in). Over the course of months, they bond over music and comic books, and fall in love.
And that’s it really. Sure, there are difficulties in Eleanor and Park’s lives, but this book is about falling in love for the first time when you’re young, and the way it can be all-consuming, no matter what is happening around you.
Switching between sections focusing on both characters, it’s only the reader who has full knowledge of Eleanor and Park’s lives for much of the novel. In the privileged position of knowing it all, I felt like Rowell had told the perfect story – there wasn’t a single moment where I went: “Oh, because I know that I think he/she should have reacted differently.”
There are plenty of supporting characters, but we see them all through their interactions with the protagonists, and although some of them help the story move along, they’re not as important as Eleanor and Park, what’s important is the way they affect the characters’ relationship.
Rowell’s powerful storytelling had me in tears for much of the novel. I’m not sure if it’s because I started reading it at 1am after a night out and I had flu and it was the end of a long week of work, or if it’s because the story was genuinely weep-worthy. I have a feeling it’s a little of both, and despite the fact I was wiping the water out of my eyes a lot, I did enjoy the book.
Eleanor & Park is a beautiful tale, made even more so by its simplicity. You never forget your first love, and I’ll never forget the time I fell a little in love with Eleanor and Park.
How I got this book: Borrowed from the library