Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor-park

“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.”

I picked this up after finishing Wool and feeling like I’d need something light and fluffy to read after something so intense, and if anyone can do the kind of light and fluffy that I like it’s Rainbow Rowell. But this book is not light and fluffy, or at least not all of the time.

Eleanor is a kind of rough around the edges teenage girl growing up in the 80’s, just starting at a brand new high school after moving back in with her mother and four siblings, after her pig of a stepfather threw new out for a year. She’s picked on by her classmates for her poverty, her crazy hair and her disinterest in their social hierarchy. Eleanor’s home life is a very specific kind of shitty and she has reached a point where her life is so consistently awful that any hope of having anything good just seems foolish to her. But then she meets Park. Like all Rainbow Rowell books, the plot, when I summarize it at least just sounds terribly boring and cliché. But just like all her other books, it’s not within the plot but within it’s telling, it’s characters and their always adorable relationships that she creates a story filled with such honesty and give me such strong feelings of nostalgia that I can never put them down.

This is my third book of hers, and every time I read one, I feel like she’s had this little window into some fleeting part I my life, always finding little threads of familiarity woven into them. It’s that empathy that makes me love her stories, and while I appreciate that not everybody likes them, I know that’s because they just can’t relate to them, not because they aren’t good. My heart bled when I read this, and it continues to bleed for all the Eleanor’s out there in the world, too, and I hope that each and every one of them can find this book. Because knowing you aren’t alone in your feelings or circumstances that you have is half the battle. I really wish I could have read this when I was 16.

That ending is a bit of a bitch though.

4/5

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