Eleanor and Park

I have to talk about Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

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About a year ago I was in a workshop, with other writers, critiquing and discussing our latest projects. Someone brought up the subject of ‘The Book I Wish I Wrote.’ The eight of us went around and around talking about which book we had read that had effected us so much that we wished we had written it. My answer? ‘I’ve read a lot of fabulous, brilliant books, but I don’t think I’ve read THE ONE I would label ‘The Book I Wish I Wrote.’

Until now.

Eleanor and Park is the book I wish I had wrote. 

No review will do it justice. It was utter perfection. 

A trip down 80’s memory lane with a couple of sixteen year olds navigating their way through first love. It’s complicated, confusing, dreamy, and everything else that young love is. Rainbow nailed the emotions so completely, I actually felt myself being brought back to my own feelings of first love. Told in alternate points of view, we get a clear view into both Eleanor and Parks thoughts and lives. 

It’s not just a sappy love story. Nope. I hear people compare it to Anna and The French Kiss and it’s nothing like it. 

It’s a story about bullying, and standing with your head high even though you’re getting beat down everyday. It’s about abuse, mental and physical, and not knowing where to turn. It’s about looking ‘different’ and not fitting into the typical mold deemed by the social hierarchy of high school (or the world for that matter.)

I cried more during this book than I ever had with any other. Ever. Yes, there were swoons and sweetness, but it was the feelings that so many of us had of ‘not fitting in’ that hit me hard. I don’t think anyone can say that they’ve never been made fun of, but this is different. Going to school, knowing you will be tormented and embarrassed, is one of the worst feelings in the world. (I spent a whole grade in junior high being ostracized. I could tell you what I was wearing the day a group of girls tore weight loss tips out of magazines and stuck them all over my locker. I was wearing acid wash jeans and a peach/black/checkered button down flannel. I have more stories than I care to remember.) My point is….that shit never, ever leaves you. Reading this book, those emotions came flooding back. 

But know what?

I survived. Eleanor and Park did too. 

The message is more powerful than I can convey. Their love was so palpable that I could practically feel their heartbeats on the page. The 80’s nostalgia (OMG THE MUSIC! AND COMICS! AND ALL OF IT) was the sprinkles on top. 

Utter perfection. Thank you Rainbow Rowell. I’m a better writer for reading this. Eleanor and Park are going to stay with me for a long, long time.

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