Review of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published: 28th February 2013
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 336


Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.


This was my third read during #sunathon last month. After hearing a lot of book bloggers and readers discussing the book, I knew I had to read it soon to see what all the hype was about.

Before the opening chapter, there’s a little glimpse into how Park feels at the end of the book. It’s a sad paragraph and that didn’t give me a lot of hope for the rest of the narrative. Eleanor’s home life is rough, she’s one of many siblings and she doesn’t belong under her Step-Dad’s roof. Who can blame her? He’s a violent drunk pig. I could say more, but let’s keep this PG. I liked the fact that Park’s Mum was Korean – it added cultural to the plot, but with culture comes racism and we do experience a little bit of that in the narrative. But Rainbow is just showing readers what goes on behind closed doors.

“That’s how people learn new worlds, Park – reading.”

Eleanor and Park are drawn together through two simple things – music and comics. Reading about them lighting up around one another was unbelievably sweet. Neither of them are perfect, but they see part the imperfections and their fondness grows because of who they truly are. They develop into this cute pairing and Park’s protective streak had in awe overdrive.

“If you like me, I swear to God, nothing else matters.”

When Park’s Mum called Eleanor “white trash,” I did feel angry. Let’s be honest – I’ve never experience a racist comment. I’m White British but that never stops people from throwing rude words at other people’s faces. When I was younger, I thought White people never got racist comments thrown at them, but I was deeply wrong. I felt very protective of Eleanor. She’d become this little sister of mine who I just wanted to wrap in cotton wool. I wasn’t ok with Park’s Mum saying that.

I think Rainbow covered the domestic violence scenes like a pro. Eleanor’s Step-Dad was disgusting. I kind of wanted Rainbow to kill him off or have Park do another leg kick on him. I wanted him to pay for what he did and for me, that storyline was left open. Too open for my liking. My imagination has gone into overdrive.

As per usual, Rainbow writes teenagers with such ease and enjoyment. Can we just discuss these three little words? What the hell does Eleanor write on the postcard? My guess is: It’s Not Goodbye.

Twitter: @rainbowrowell
Website: www.rainbowrowell.com/blog