“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.”
One wonders if, when Rainbow Rowell wrote this line, she had any idea she was describing not only one of her characters but her entire novel as well. Eleanor & Park is not a “nice” book. There are painful emotions and curse words and scenes that are difficult and uncomfortable to read. There were parts when I wanted to cry and scream and maybe shove the book into a dark corner of my room where I would never have to look at it again. “Nice” is the last word I would use.
Eleanor & Park is a work of art, and that is the only way I can think to describe it.
Mid- 1980’s, in Omaha, Nebraska, Park Sheridan has built a life on music. Neither popular nor bullied, Park defines himself with bands such as the Smiths, U2 and countless others. He is content with this existence, and doesn’t appreciate it at all when a chubby, strangely-dressed girl with frizzy red hair appears on his school bus and ends up sitting next to him. Her name is Eleanor Douglas, and she is about to change his life in ways that he never would have believed possible.
As Eleanor and Park bond over music and comic books, they find themselves stumbling into their first loves. However, with opposed parents, fears of rejection, and the usual awkward first steps, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
Perhaps the most appealing element of Eleanor and Park’s love story is that it’s just so realistic. This isn’t the Hollywood romance we have become accustomed to, with beautiful actors falling in love under glitzy stage lights and whispering scripted lines of sentiment. Eleanor and Parks’ relationship is like a piano piece played by an amateur musician with a budding talent. There are starts and stops, wrong notes and slips of the hand, but in the end every chord rings true.