Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a heart wrenchingly honest novel about imperfect but unforgettable first love. Picking out the book, I did not expect much, just another run-of-the-mill love story about two teenagers stupid and in love. However, Eleanor and Park pleasantly surprised me, as it came across as refreshingly balanced and modest in a usually bland genre.
The characters are what really made this story shine through and differentiate it from the rest. The two main characters are misfits of sorts and not whom you would expect to see leading up a novel about romance. The book jumps around between Eleanor and Park’s point of view, the two main characters. Eleanor is quickly established as a loner that stands out from the crowd. She is a fresh face to the usual main love interest trope and is absolutely wonderful for a number of reasons. One of them being that she is self-described as plain looking and overweight. Few books in the romance genre have main characters who are not stick-skinny and are oblivious to their super model good looks. Park is the product of an interracial relationship being half korean and half american. Again, in the romance genre it’s uncommon to find characters that are actually multi-dimensional and aren’t described as just one ethnicity. The characterization creates dynamic and very realistic plot lines, strengthens the overall story, and is what makes the book memorable. Leaving Rowell limitless in possibilities.
This novel is great because it is believable. Rowell’s characters and plot only add to this fact. The book is not a light read, it does not contain the overused and tired tropes of true love. It portrays an imperfect relationship that requires work and understanding and respect. Eleanor and Park don’t experience love at first sight and their lives are not plausibly easy. They are not any other cookie-cutter romance heroes. The book is expertly crafted to come across as human and not as some epic, untouchable romance. Throughout the entire story Eleanor and Park’s voices seemed to speak through the pages; Rowell manages to bring the characters and their story to life. Overall Eleanor and Park is captivating. It’s funny, poignant, sweet and I highly recommend you get a copy as soon as possible.