Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of Pages: 328
Awards: Michael L. Printz Honor Book, New York Times Notable Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book
Genre/Subgenre: Realistic fiction/historical fiction
Two unique teens fall in love despite the odds over comic books and The Smiths.
Eleanor and Park is the story of two misfit teens who fall in love on the school bus and fight to stay together despite the many obstacles in their way. At the start of the novel, Eleanor has recently moved back to town after being kicked out by her abusive stepfather. She is bullied at school for her appearance and lacks friends until she forms a connection with Park, who feels like an outcast because he listens to unpopular music and is one of the only Asian kids in his neighborhood. They begin reading comics and listening to music together on the bus, and slowly their friendship becomes romantic. Despite their love for each other, they face problems – such as Park’s parents initial disapproval and the bullying that Eleanor is facing at school and at home – that threaten to tear them apart. When circumstances in Eleanor’s home become too difficult, she turns to Park to help her escape, changing their relationship forever.
Eleanor and Park is an excellent novel that is sure to be popular with young adult audiences (and perhaps their parents as well!) Rainbow Rowell takes a familiar literary convention – two star-crossed lovers – and presents a take that is fresh, modern, and extremely compelling. Rowell expertly blends humor and tragedy in this novel and creates two characters who feel like real people. The references to comics and 1980’s music make the novel particularly fun.
Why I Chose the Book:
The blurb for Eleanor and Park is outstanding and really caught my attention. It’s both funny and heartfelt, and it made me want to know the characters better:
“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re 16.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
“I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
(From Rainbow Rowell’s website).
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
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Book Talk Ideas
Make a mixed tape of the songs that Park and Eleanor listen to and play it for students or patrons.
Display the comics (Watchmen, X-Men, Batman) that Park brings to Eleanor.
1. In different ways, Eleanor and Park are both misfits. How do you think this draws them to each other, and how does it make their relationship more difficult?
2. Discuss the role of bullying in the novel.
3. Eleanor and Park plays on the theme of star-crossed lovers, such as the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Compare and contrast the story of Eleanor and Park to the story of Romeo and Juliet, or of another star-crossed young couple. How does Rainbow Rowell rework this age-old theme?
Eleanor and Park (2014). RainbowRowell.com. Retrieved from:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014). Goodreads.com. Retrieved from:
Flattery (2014). RainbowRowell.com. Retrieved from:
Rowell, R (2013). Eleanor and Park [iBook version]. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.