Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA Romance
Summary (from Goodreads)
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
I found myself in possession of an Audible credit, and needed to spend it before it expired. I’d heard about Eleanor and Park on the ‘Narrative Breakdown’ podcast, and thought it sounded good, so I picked up the audiobook version.
… and then promptly spent most of my weekend holding my phone in my hand and listening intently, forgetting that you can actually do other things when listening to an audiobook.
So, it was absorbing, and compelling and I had to know what happened next, despite the fact that – when I think back on it – there wasn’t a great deal going on.
This is a YA Romance that is absolutely a romance – everything extra going on is just a vehicle to put obstacles in the road for Eleanor and Park. Which is fine, because as characters, Eleanor and Park are wonderful creations. Realistic, relatable, and with family lives that so perfectly compliment who they are. There’s never any doubt why they respond and behave the way they do – you can see the roots of all their problems and strengths in the situations they’ve grown up in.
Rowell manages to perfectly capture that teenage insecurity – the second guessing of other people’s thoughts, the utter conviction you have at times that you are the worst person to ever exist, the longing for connection and the fear of it. By swapping backwards and forwards between their perspectives, the reader is able to see what Eleanor and Park don’t know about what the other is thinking, and it plays out deliciously. There was a bit about Eleanor in a tight fitting gym suit that she hates, and being slightly older and more accustomed to teenage boy thinking than the average teenage girl, I knew exactly what would be going through Park’s head, and was both pleased and smug to be proven right.
So many times, despite coming from a background neither like Eleanor’s nor Park’s, I found myself thinking ‘I remember doing that.’ Usually in response to something stupid that Eleanor is thinking about her relationship. I’m still with my ‘high school sweetheart’ now, nearly ten years (oh god, that’s terrifying) after the fact, and Eleanor and Park brought back so many memories of what it was like trying to navigate that first serious relationship, burgeoning love, while trying to figure out who the hell you are at the same time.
The audiobook performance was one of the better ones I’ve heard. I never much like blokes reading women, but that’s just a personal preference. I’m just glad it was only 9 hours long, or I’d probably still be sat here now, gripping my phone and wishing the actors would read faster.