Genre: YA fiction
Length: 325 pages
Setting: 1986-7, Des Moines, Iowa
Interest: I’ve heard great things about this book in multiple locations and decided it was finally time to read it.
Summary: Eleanor’s the new kid in high school and she doesn’t fit in. She’s a little chubby, her clothes are weird, and she has a hard time making friends. This leads to some pretty significant bullying. Park, the only Asian kid in the school, takes pity on her the first day and lets her sit with him on the bus. Gradually, they start talking to each other and find many interest in common. Eleanor’s home life is problematic (she’s one step above homeless and her mother’s new husband is abusive) but Park has a pretty idyllic life. Park and Eleanor fall in love and Park helps Eleanor run away in the end.
Final thoughts: This book deserves all the hype it’s getting. I loved it and read it in an after while camping. Rowell expertly captured that feeling of first love when it feels like all the nerve endings in your body are concentrated in your hands and they are on fire. I enjoyed watching the evolution of Eleanor and Park’s relationship from silence in the bus seat to surreptitious comic book reading to actual discussion to a physical relationship. Alongside their relationship, you see glimpses of Eleanor’s home life. Everyone lives in fear of Ritchie and they have no money (for example, Eleanor can’t listen to the mix tape Park gave her because, although she has a Walkman, she doesn’t have batteries for it). Park helps Eleanor survive through some pretty awful bullying from schoolmates and her stepfather.
The set-up of the book was interesting as well since we alternated chapter narrators between Eleanor and Park. The reader gets to be in both of their lives and see how they don’t fit in, but complement each other. Even Park, who seems to have the perfect life by Eleanor’s estimation (she had a hard time just going to his house because it was so different from her own situation), had problems living up to his father’s expectations. But, when push came to shove, his father supports his decision to help Eleanor.
Title comes from: The two main characters and alternating narrators.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 51/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, and an E in my Title Alphabet Challenge
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