Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a young-adult modern(ish) love story with a twist. The story takes place during the days of cassette tape mixes. Eleanor, an awkward redhead, co-stars with Park, an Asian boy who loves punk music. The two find themselves on the bus together one day, and the relationship grows slowly and awkwardly at first.

Eleanor lives in a broken home. Her mother has remarried (he’s a jerk!), and Eleanor is forced to live in a bedroom with several young siblings. Eleanor’s father seems to be much better off but has no room for Eleanor in his new life. For a year, Eleanor lived with a foster family, but now that she’s back with her mom and stepdad, things are more awkward than ever.

There is one bathroom in the house, and there isn’t even a door. Eleanor and her siblings are always hungry. She wears clothing she or her mother scrounged up at the thrift store. All of this has left her feeling awkward and lacking self-esteem. It doesn’t help when the rest of the school makes fun of her, either.

As the story develops, Eleanor and Park fall in love, and Park slowly discovers just what a difficult situation Eleanor deals with each day.

I enjoyed the strong voices of each character—chapters alternate in each character’s voice. I also enjoyed the character of Park’s mother. I’m not sure I’d want to be friends with her, but she would be fun to watch. I found myself being drawn into the story as it developed. At first I was rolling my eyes a little, thinking it was just a typical love story, but there are many twists and elements that make it unique, and they hooked me so that I finished the second half of the book in one sitting.

I recommend this book for young adult readers or anyone simply wanting to witness an author who has really good control of voice.


This book is one of the 2014-15 Loudoun County Battle of the Books selections. The selections are as follows. Since The Scarred Letter was chosen as one of the selections, I will be attending the competition and will also be reading the rest of the selections. Books I’ve reviewed from this list are hyperlinked:

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