I’ve never really been one for reading. I can’t remember the last time I even opened up a book. For some reason, a couple weeks ago I had this weird urge to go out and buy a book. I went and picked up Eleanor & Park. It sat on my night stand, unread and untouched since I bought it. So today I decided to sit in front of my window and read it and listen to it rain. I couldn’t put the book down! It was so nice to just get lost in a whole ‘nother world. To just sit in silence and away from any form of technology. To put away my lap top, my phone, and shut off my tv.
The book takes place in 1986 and is about first love. There is Park, who is a half Korean, grungy, average boy who is a fan of The Smiths, and comic books. Park comes from a great house hold. His parents met in Korea and are still completely in love. Then there is Eleanor, a chubby ginger girl who has an extremely difficult home life. Her step dad is an alcoholic and kicked her out of the house for a year. She also suffers from bullying at school because she is so different and poor. She lives in a small house with her mom, her step-dad, and her 3 siblings.
On her first day of school, she is force to sit with Park on the bus because no one would move over for her to sit. Over the course of a couple of weeks they start to secretly bond over comic books and music. She starts looking over and reading his comic books which she really likes and listening to music and they form an unlikely bond. It starts this friendship that they don’t know whether it would lead to anything more.
The writing style in this book is what makes it amazing! It is flipped between Eleanor and Park. One chapter would be Eleanor and the other would be Park. Some of the chapters are really long and some are incredibly short. The descriptive language in the book just makes it stand out to me. It is so descriptive and puts you really in the shoes of the characters. There is one particular scene where they hold hands for the first time. When the author explains the kind of butterflies and the first touch between your skin and someone else you like, it just gives you butterflies thinking about it. It made me just swoon over holding hands and made me feel as if I was a teenager again and experiencing my first love.
Throughout the book Eleanor seems a bit stand-offish and I think it stays a lot about her home-life and that fact that her mother had been through a lot of traumatic things with her father and her step-father. She sees her mother’s love for her step-father as a weakness. Eleanor sees love generally as a weakness and doesn’t want it for herself. She goes through and internal battle because she really loves Park but doesn’t want to seem like a damsel in distress. She has had to be so tough that she isn’t sure that she could break down all these walls and barriers she has put up.
Park on the other hand, comes from a romantic household. His parents met in Korea and are still completely in love with each other. Because, he comes from such a loving and “perfect” family he doesn’t get why Eleanor is so stand-offish about love.He sees love as the greatest thing you could possibly have. He wants the kind of relationship his parents have but he doesn’t know if he will get that kind of relationship from Eleanor.
The mixture between the two characters completely different house-holds is really what makes the book what it is. It is the different versions of love. How two different house holds can see love in such a different way. This book is not just about love. It is about standing up for yourself, and fighting your demons whether they are internal or external. It is about realizing that it doesn’t matter if everyone else finds you lovely, it’s about finding that one person that you care for does as well.
This book made me remember my first love and the innocence and the defensiveness about letting someone in for the first time. I really related to Eleanor. Throughout high school and middle school as well, I dealt with bullying. I was always the “bigger” girl in my classes and was not part of the “in crowd.” My family was not well off like most of the families in my town so it was easy to understand what she was going through. There is a point in the book where Park tries to get her to talk about the bullying in the gym locker room but she says there is no point in talking about because if she lets them get to her and bother her that they win. It was so incredibly easy to relate to that feeling, that if you even let them see that they got to you, that they made you wish you could just disappear, that they won. That they succeeded at tearing you down.
There were a few points in the book that made me teary eyed and made me giggle. I’ve never read a book that made me feel those kinds of emotions while reading it.
Overall, this book is just absolutely amazing and I recommend reading it.