Eleanor and Park…
Is just that. Eleanor and Park.
A chunky, red haired girl and a slight but beautifully offbeat boy.
A teenage love story that has the depth to deal with domestic abuse, racism, body image, bullying and self worth.
It is because of this that I seem to have fallen head over heels for this pair of quirky individuals as they become embroiled in each other’s lives in Nebraska, USA circa 1986. Eleanor has to deal with poverty and fear whilst trying to keep the one good thing clear of all the things her home represents and by the middle of the book she seems to cling to his loving, accepting household like he and it is her one remaining life raft. He is just learning about acceptance outside of his tight family circle in a neighbourhood that has not always been so welcoming.
On paper this book sounds like it has all the factors needed for a painful cheesy teenage novel but Rowell has been clever enough to make her characters so real it hurts. They know what they feel is real but are aware that they are teenagers. They also show embarrassment and humility in bucket loads and it is so refreshing that Eleanor, a girl who has never had positivity in her life, realises that while a boyfriend is a good thing he will never be able to fix everything and should not be the only safe person in her life.
If that isn’t a good lesson for a teenage girl I don’t know what is.
I was especially blown away by the end of this book. It finished to imply it was a short story, a mere chapter in a life that could never fit into one novel.
I will be thinking about this one for a while to come.
Hurray for Rainbow Lowell!