Book Review: Eleanor & Park

Young Adult Fiction

Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell

336 pp. St. Martain’s Press $18.99

I confess that I listened to this audiobook and didn’t read a physical copy. The story is the same, but sometimes the voice actors give a book an added emotional element.

Eleanor & Park is the story of two teenagers who meet on the school bus and form a bond over comic books and mixed tapes.

I’m a child of the ’80s, and the music in this book took me back. I loved Eleanor’s reaction to listening to The Smiths for the first time. And the book made me long for the days of getting or giving that special gift, a mixed tape.

It’s not all nostalgia though. A dark current runs through the story. Eleanor is relentlessly bullied a la Carrie style. And her home life is a wreck. Park, reluctant at first, steps in and tries to help.

The book isn’t without its controversy. Many have complained that language describing Park and his mother is racist. I have to admit there were some cringe-worthy moments that could have been written better. But at the same time, I feel like this was a story of the ’80s and though some of it bothered me, some of it felt that it was part of the story and character set up, a teenage boy dealing with being half Koren in a very caucasian town.

I loved the book and couldn’t get enough of it. Both characters were interesting and the plot engaging. It very much represented the ’80s I knew. I listened to it in two days. However, I do recommend readers be aware of the complaints and read with an open mind.

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