“There’s no love like the first.”
― Nicholas Sparks
My daughters (ages 17 and 13) and I just finished listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I finally decided to coerce my daughters into listening to it with me after my high school students kept telling me how much they enjoyed Rowell’s new book, Fangirl. (Which, incidentally, is now on my short list too.) We started off listening to it together in the car, but that soon turned into running to the car to turn it on, and idling just so we could finish up that last chapter. Eventually Anabel, my oldest, went out and purchased the book herself so she could finish it up– soon, the entire family was racing through the book and the audiobook in a battle to see who could find out what happened first..
The characters, Eleanor and Park, narrate the story through alternating perspectives, bringing the heartfelt story about first love to life. The two meet one day on the bus after Eleanor moves into town; she’s described as a big, wild red-head who wears flamboyant clothes and apparently doesn’t care what others think about her. However, by following the beat of her own drum rather than conforming, Eleanor is subject to bullying by most of her classmates. Park, a shy Asian-American, quietly watches in the beginning, but slowly begins to speak in her defense as the two get closer together and their subtle romance develops.
The two main characters are brought together by chance, pushed together by an overcrowded bus, and spend most of their time together pointedly ignoring each other. But after Park catches Eleanor reading comic books over his shoulder, he warms up to her. Slowly, the two begin to talk. After many shared comic books, gifts in the form of audio tapes (did I mention the book is set in the late 80’s?), and afternoons spent together; Eleanor and Park finally realize that maybe they deserve to find happiness together, no matter the cost.
Rainbow Rowell perfectly catches the awkwardness and desperation of that first teen love, something we all can relate to. Reading this book was a flashback to the past (and the Playlist from the author provided another flashback all it’s own!). Eleanor and Park gets the thumbs up from my family, comment to say what E&P got in yours!
Students who liked this book might also like:
Stargirl by Spinelli
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessin
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green