Eleanor and Park is a rare find for me- a book that I stumble across without reading any hype, any book reviews, seeing any posters for it. A book that is sat there on a shelf just willing me to pick it up. I read so many book blogs and follow lots of publishers, publicists and authors on twitter, and most books I read are recommendations I get from these fellow bibliophiles.
I was drawn to Eleanor and Park by the cover, simplistic and classical in style, yet with a contemporary feel. The strapline 'You never forget your first love...' appealed to me and for some reason I just knew that I'd love this book.
Eleanor, a flame haired misfit from a dysfunctional family, meets pop culture fanatic Park on the school bus. Slowly but surely they progress from reluctantly sitting next to each other to that first frantic love that consumes you whole. Very much focussed on emotions, this character-driven novel made my heart sing. There isn't much of a plot, other than following the relationship of the two protagonists, but it doesn't need anything else. Relationships started via mix tapes is very much something I can relate to, and the power of music is eloquently illustrated. I found myself longing to be Eleanor, discovering The Smiths for the very first time, desperately racking my brain for the emotion I felt the first time I heard The Queen is Dead. Rainbow Rowell managed to transport me back to being a teenager; acutely painful, yet with opportunity stretching out before you.
Eleanor and Park has a similar feel to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which I have previously reviewed here) or Love Story, an intense novel about love, lust and desire and how they can be affected by outside pressures of dictating family and judgmental peers. I know that if Eleanor and Park had been released when I was a teenager I would have been shut in my room reading a well thumbed copy over and over. This generation is so lucky to have such a wealth of high quality fiction that encapsulates the awkward adolescent years. I'm really quite envious.
The ending was the only disappointment for me. After the soaring love portrayed throughout the novel I felt almost cheated and unfulfilled. If there had been just one more chapter to fully 'finish things off' it would have been a nigh on perfect read for me. However, I'd still highly recommend this book, particularly to 14+, although I am sure this will also have a large crossover following. It is a heart-wrenching read and I know it will stay with me for a long, long time.
Eleanor and Park is out now, published by Orion.