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'Eleanor & Park' reminds reader what it's like to be young, in love

By Kathleen Duncan
May 8, 2013 at 12:08 a.m.


"Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something."

Eleanor climbs onto the bus one day and can't find a seat. Every kid on the bus blocks her or avoids her eyes. She is in a humiliated panic - until Park lets her sit next to him. It may have been out of pity, out of wanting it to be over, but Park still offers.

At first, they are silent, ignoring each other all the way to school and all the way back every day. Then Park realizes she is reading his comics over his shoulder, and he begins to turn the pages slower and hold them closer to her so she can enjoy them, too. Over time, this transforms into a friendship and, eventually, dare I say it, love.

Though this story is filled with adorable moments, Eleanor deals with some serious issues, too. Eleanor comes from a home with an abusive stepfather, a disinterested mother and very little money. Her clothing has to be pinned together or patched up. She wears odd combinations of items just to be covered.

At school, this leads to being bullied, teased and harassed by other students. Her days are pretty bleak until she makes a couple friends, and Park becomes a staple in her day, making everything painful in her life a little less sharp.

Park helps Eleanor deal with her home life as best as he can, which is to say, not much. But he loves her, supports her and does whatever he can to keep her safe. We see them struggle together with her dangerous situations at home and her conflicts with students at school.

We are also treated to some of the cutest dialogue in a young adult love story that I've ever read. If you are a fan of David Levithan, Sarah Dessen and John Green, you will adore "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell.

If you cried over Augustus and Hazel, explored the Strand with Dash and Lily and danced the night away with Nick and Norah, you will want to add "Eleanor & Park" to your shelf. The same depth of blatant affection and energy pulses through their relationship like all our favorites that have come before them.

Eleanor and Park remind us what it is like to be incredibly young and head over heels in love - when every touch, every word and every shared interest just adds another spark to the flame.

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