Eleanor & Park [book review]

C bought me this book back in April as a birthday gift, but I just now got around to reading it. (What can I say, I have a long reading list!) It’s a super fast read—I finished it in less than three days. But I was most intrigued by the fact that it’s written by a writer from Omaha (Rainbow Rowell), which is less than an hour from us. The story is actually set there—it was a little weird reading a story with locations I’m super familiar with, not gonna lie. At the same time, it was kind of cool because I could fill in all kinds of details in my head.

To give you the gist of it, this is a book about two high school sweethearts, with some family drama involved to add tension and keep things interesting. There’s a scene in the book where the characters are discussing Romeo & Juliet in English class. Eleanor, the girlfriend, says she thinks Shakespeare was making fun of love. Two hormone-ridden teenagers hitting infatuation hard and killing themselves over their emotional distress—I get where she’s coming from. But Park (the boyfriend), when asked why he thinks the story has endured for so long, says he thinks people just want to remember what it was like to be young and in love. That right there is what makes this book a good one.

The story itself is pretty simple—a very stereotypical high school romance. But despite its simplicity, I had a hard time putting it down. I think Park is right: people really do have a strong desire to rediscover the emotional thrill of being young and in love. There’s just something about that first love that’s different from every other. The high emotion, the sizzling excitement, the newness of the whole experience. It’s special, and it’s something you get to live through only once. To be able to go back and do it again, even only in the pages of a book—well, there’s a certain appeal to that. Rowell got it right here.

I enjoyed this book a LOT, up until the very end. Like, the last page. That last page is terrible. If you read it (and I still think you should), just stop right before that last page and pretend you’ve reached the end. That is all. 

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