In the past few weeks, I’ve read her two novels (I recently raved about the divine Attachments), and both have left me wanting more. MORE. MORE!
Like Attachments, Eleanor & Park takes place in Nebraska. While Attachments took place mainly in 1999, this book takes place in 1986, the era of the Smiths and the Cure and all of that other wonderful music I listened to in high school (I’m guessing Rainbow and I are around the same age).
Eleanor is a new student at Park’s school, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Bigger than the other girls (convinced she’s fat, but I’m not so sure), with bright red unruly hair, and a fashion sense designed to take notice away from her torn and old thrift store clothes (and her thrift store clothes aren’t because she thinks they are cool, its all her family can afford). She’s got a tough life at home: 5 kids in one bedroom, a drunk and violent stepfather, and a mother that is afraid to step up for her daughter. Eleanor was kicked out of the house last year, and is only just returning to her family, just to find that its worse than when she was there before.
The scenes in her house really, really bummed me out.
Meanwhile, Park is her new seat-mate on the school bus. Half-Korean and totally punk rock, Park initially has no idea what to make of Eleanor. But slowly and surely, he finds that they have much in common.
They start sharing comics (their bonding over The Watchmen was truly a beautiful thing), and Park makes her tapes of music that he thinks she’ll like. Smiths, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen. And Joy Division.
I loved the part of the book where they just talked about why they love Love Will Tear Us Apart. Heartbreaking and amazing.
Their relationship slowly builds until they can’t stand being apart. The need they have for each other overtakes everything else in their lives, and its lovely to read along and see their relationship progress.
But, because the book starts out at the end, we know that things aren’t going to end well for these two.
I wish I could have stayed in the middle of this book for much longer. The beginning was great, and the ending was depressing. But the middle was simply perfect.
Favorite scene: It killed me when Park’s mom got tipsy on wine coolers and gave him an Avon Lady gift to give Eleanor for Christmas. The talk they had about her previous life and how it might be similar to Eleanor’s brought me to tears.
Thank you Rainbow Rowell. I can’t wait to read what you write next (Fangirl, out in September).