Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This touching debut novel tells the story of first love between two extremely awkward teens. It’s 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska, and the school year is just starting. Eleanor is the new kid; big with wild red hair and dressing in oversized men’s clothes from thrift stores. When Park sees her getting on the school bus, he averts his gaze, hoping she won’t see the empty seat next to him. Her family is poor and she has only recently been “allowed” to move back in with this if she stays under her step-father Richie’s radar. In contrast, Park comes from a loving family where his dad is a Vietnam vet and his mom is Korean. He loves punk music and usually wears band T-shirts and definitely tries to keep to himself at school. Despite themselves, Park and Eleanor begin to fall in love, and it’s an urgent and uncomfortable business and first love often is.
What will stay with readers is the realistic way Rowell draws her characters, moving the narration back and forth between the two. We feel like we are there with them, wanting to protect them both from the outside world and themselves. I would highly recommend this to all types of teen readers. It’s a quick, engaging read that will leave you wanting to spend more time with this intriguing and quirky couple.