Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Walking disaster meets weird Asian kid.
Topics of Interest: 70’s/80’s music, punk rock, comic books, romance, bullies, misfits, identity, coming of age
Curriculum Connections: English, Music
Blurb: The story of Eleanor and Park is a lot like that of Romeo and Juliet (but without the family feud, or love at first sight, or sword fighting, or murder, or secret marriages, or suicides). Okay, so maybe comparing this adorable novel to Shakespeare’s famous romance isn’t the best connection I can make, but Eleanor and Park does contain young star-crossed lovers, utter devotion, unhappy parents, and one wicked ninja kick. If a comparison can be made to Shakespeare’s young lovers, it should be that the names Eleanor and Park be forever linked. After all, one cannot think of Juliet without her Romeo.
But Eleanor is no fair Juliet. Red curly hair, pale skin, a thousand freckles, and big bones have doomed Eleanor to wear a figurative target on her back. She is not one to go unnoticed by school-bus bullies, especially when she drapes herself in holey thrift store clothes covered in scraps of cloth.
While other girls her age dream of going to the prom, Eleanor just wants a seat on the bus and a door to her family’s bathroom. Finding her step-father face down in a gutter wouldn’t be too bad either.
Eleanor’s one break at her new school is when Park, “the weird Asian kid” reluctantly lets her sit next to him on the bus. It’s just a short ride to school. What could happen?
Flavour: “The girl just looked like exactly the sort of person this would happen to. Not just new—but big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red on top of curly. And she dressed like she wanted people to look at her. Or maybe she just didn’t get what a mess she was.” (7-8)
“Before he even decided to do it, Park scooted toward the window. ‘Sit down,’ he said calmly. The girl turned to him, like she couldn’t tell whether he was another jerk or what. ‘Jesus-****,’ Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, ‘just sit down.’ The girl sat down. She didn’t say anything—thank God, she didn’t thank him—and she left six inches of space on the seat between them. Park turned toward the Plexiglass window and waited for a world of suck to hit the fan.” (9)
“When Eleanor was around girls like that—like Park’s mom, like Tina, like most of the girls in the neighbourhood—she wondered where they put their organs. Like, how could you have a stomach and intestines and kidneys, and still wear such tiny jeans?” (126)
“When he saw Eleanor walking toward him on Monday morning, Park wanted to run to her and sweep her up in his arms. Like some guy in the soap operas his mom watched. He hung on to his backpack to hold himself back…. It was kind of wonderful.” (169)