Review | Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell: still the queen of cuteness. 4/5 stars.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The blurb: Two misfits. 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.

My take:

This is the third full-length novel by Rainbow Rowell I’ve read, and I’m pleased to report I enjoyed it as much as Fangirl and Carry On.

Told from the alternating first-person viewpoints of the titular characters, Rowell (once again) shows her skill in depicting those small moments in which very two different people gradually realise they have more in common than they thought and, hang on a minute, actually kinda like each other. This section of the book, in particular, is adorable and made me grin like an idiot. The 80s setting didn’t hurt either and I loved that they were able to connect through the music of the time: lots of excellent nostalgia for a slightly more mature (*ahem*) reader like me.

E&P is a fantastic depiction of teenage love and friendship, in its all-consuming, overwhelming glory. When the characters say they’ve missed each other, even though they’ve only been apart for a few hours, it brought back strong memories of high school, when we used to see each other all day and then “have” to spend half the evening on the phone chatting about nothing much.

As you may have guessed from the blurb, this story doesn’t have a typical “happy ever after” ending. To which I say, “good”. They’re sixteen, for goodness sake! Having them waltz off into the sunset would just be weird. Besides, the darker, sadder aspects of the story (mostly revolving around poor Eleanor’s home life – I wanted to adopt her and all her siblings pretty much instantly) provided much needed balance to the fluffier parts of the narrative.

Overall: Eleanor & Park is a touching portrayal of the beginnings of fuzzy young love, tempered by some harder reality. A great choice if you like romance stories which are cute, but not sickly sweet.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul


32 thoughts on “Review | Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I listened to this book a month or so ago and I had the same reaction. I really did like that Rowell didn’t go for a Happily Ever After for them. While I was glad the ending did leave a gram of hope for them down the line, they are sixteen. It’s way too early for them to find their soulmate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you liked this book Claire. It’s one of my favorites. And this is the book that made me want to read all Rainbow Rowell books (Sorry Fangirl). The me from the past year who cried while reading this book would have disagreed with you about being happy with the ending. But I have read lots of books since last year and grown a little I think and now even I think the ending is quite nice and sensible 🙂

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    • I loved the ending. I liked that it was hopeful and I felt that, if nothing else, I could imagine the E&P will always be really good friends, even if they end up with other people. After all, he helped her through a tough time and that sort of thing tends to bring people even closer together.

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  3. My hubby read it for six months (definitely not a bookworm, haha) and all I got at the end was an “it was okay” so I’m glad you’re a little more expansive about your thoughts on the book! I keep putting it off but I think E&P will be my first Rainbow Rowell, and I’ll probably get to it in August. It’s good to know the ending is not all butterflies and smiles.

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    • My husband is the same. He doesn’t get much time for reading, but I made him read The Martian because I was sure he’d like it. He spent two month reading it (I read it in 2 days) and at the end he shrugged and said, “It’s okay, I suppose”. Typical!
      I think E&P is a good place to start because Fangirl and Carry On are more “fun”, so you’ll be going from darker to light 🙂

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    • Thank you!
      I’m not sure it’s my favourite… but then it’s very hard to choose between them, I’ve enjoyed them all so far. The only one I’ve heard less positive things about is Landline… so I might put that one off!


  4. I adored this book. It may have been because no book has ever come closer to describing my relationship with Husband. He IS Park!
    Unfortunately, I didn’t think any other of her books are a patch on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. I don’t read many romance novels, but I’ve been seeing Rainbow Powell books everywhere on my feed! Would you say it’s a good story for people who don’t usually read romance books? I’m not against a little romance in my stories, but I’m not sure if a whole book centered around it is too much for me.

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