Contemporary, Young Adult

Oh, to be young and to feel love’s keen sting

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park

The Skinny: When Park offers new girl Eleanor the seat next to him on the school bus, he has no idea what he’s in store for. As the two slowly begin warming up to one another over silent comic book reading and sharing music. As their relationship begins to develop, leading into first love, the two begin to learn more about who the other is. Set in the 80s and filled with life’s difficulties and young love, Eleanor & Park is a love story that will make you think back to your own first love.

Seriously, my summary of this book is terrible, but I assure you that this book is NOT terrible!

BFF?: While no one at their school liked Eleanor – except two girls she managed to make friends with – I totally loved her! Sure, she was a little odd, wore terrible clothes, and had super big hair but c’mon… IT WAS THE 80s! Eleanor had a totally great personality at times, was sarcastic and witty, always ready with a great reply. She did get on my nerves a little bit because she always seemed to jump to anger or being upset with Park about things, but I think that was mostly because she did have a terrible home life. Besides that though, she was a great BFF and one I probably would have loved to have had I been a teen back in the 80s!

We also get to see Park, who I developed a crush on (see Crush Level below!) but also wanted to be friends with him. First off, the boy had crazy good taste in music. I don’t know what it is about books/movies that take place in the 80s and 90s, but they always have great music in them! He was also a bit of a nerd with his comics, but not in a Sheldon Cooper kind of way. I loved that while he seemed to have it together, he didn’t have it together, especially when it came to Eleanor. He was just so totally precious!

Readability: We go back and forth between Eleanor and Park’s POVs, which are written in 3rd person (help me out English majors if I’m wrong!), but since the narrative is the same it’s easy to make the switch. I also loved the varying lengths of each of the POVs/chapters; little snippets into Eleanor and Park’s brains, switching back and forth during moments of time, was really exciting and investing.

Crush Level: 7
Oh, Park was so absolutely, positively adorable that I wish he was MY first love! While sometimes swoony characters tend to glorify EVERYTHING about the girl they love, thinking they have no imperfections, Park doesn’t see Eleanor like that. He sees her flaws – her terrible clothes, her weight, her giant red hair – but doesn’t care; he loves her. You know that scene where Mark Darcy tells Bridget Jones he loves her just as she is and we all swoon because Colin Firth is mega hot it’s so romantic? That’s how Park is about Eleanor. He loves her, just as she is.

Bonus Points:

80s Music

I’ll admit, I’d probably be one of those people who listed to the Go-Gos or Madonna in the 80s, but I LOVE the idea of 80s punk music and all the culture/history that surrounds it. Definitely loved all the music references and songs in the book!

Red Hair
This honestly has nothing to do with the book, but I really love red hair. Growing up, I always wanted it, so I loved that Eleanor had red hair. I think this just added to her overall train-wreck look she embraced.

First Love


Is there anything better than your first love? Not really a crush, but that all encompassing feeling that you have when you’re young, the innocence of it… Oh, to be young and in love! This book brought out all those memories and feelings, making me feel warm and fuzzy all over!

Commencement Speech: We read Eleanor & Park for the Selective Collective and it was, hands down, our favorite book we’ve read since starting up our group several months ago. There really are no words that I can say that will adequately describe just how wonderful and beautiful this book is, so I’m not going to even try. Instead, I’m going to list all the feelings/thoughts I have towards it: innocence, pain, envy, excitement, rainbows, rocking, joy, love, unicorns, blushing, fear, magical, emotional, gut-wrenching, heart pounding, BGFF love!


Yearbook Quote: “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered.
Superlatives: Best look at young love
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7 thoughts on “Oh, to be young and to feel love’s keen sting”

  1. I have been hearing wonderful things abot Eleanor and Park. I can’t wait to read it!

    Also, I don’t know why you crossed out “Colin Firth is megahot.” It’s so true, especially when he’s playing a Darcy character. hehehe 🙂


      1. LOL. I know it was a joke. And totally agree, he’s always mega hot. But I don’t know if I think he is hot because he is hot, or becaue he is Mr. Darcy. Does that make sense?


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