“Eleanor & Park” Rainbow Rowell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 328 pp.

Eleanor&ParkIt is 1986 and, in alternating voices, sixteen-year-old Eleanor and Park tell their stories of love, desperation, fear, heartache and hope.

Eleanor sees herself as fat and ugly with curly, tangled red hair that sticks out everywhere. Her father doesn’t want her; her stepfather Richie hates her, while her mother is too beaten up by Richie and life to care anymore. She shares a room with her little brothers and sisters, her few articles of clothing are hand me downs from Goodwill and her bra is held closed by safety pins. She doesn’t get enough to eat, has to take baths in a bathroom without a door, doesn’t own a toothbrush and is endlessly bullied at school. Life is hard.

Park sees himself as a girly looking Asian kid from a Korean mother and an American father. He’s lucky the neighborhood bullies usually leave him alone but, to be safe, buries himself in his headphones listening to music while reading comic books. His mom loves him while his father tolerates him. He’s learned to avoid trouble by ignoring everything and everyone, but everything changes when the new girl comes onto his school bus.

Despite feeling alone and different, with unspeakable forces trying to tear them apart, their love for each other rings true. As in “Romeo and Juliet,” light and dark have roles to play in this love story, requiring readers to have a box of tissues by their sides at all times. It is easy to see why “Eleanor & Park” won the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) 2014 Printz Honor Book award.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and on YALSA’s 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

 

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