Backlist Bonus: Eleanor & Park

15795357by Rainbow Rowell
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars
YA debut – 2012

This is her first YA novel, and readers immediately agreed she captured something so special it hurts. I read this book in one six-hour spurt and I loved every page! It’s everything wonderful and terrible about high school, and it completely lived up to the hype.

It’s Omaha in 1986 – Eleanor is a redhead from the trailer park, always told she’s too heavy and not good enough. Park is half Korean in the Midwest, outcast for other reasons. When he lets Eleanor sit next to him on the bus, a tentative alliance forms that leads to friendship, and begins to dip into love. They know high school love doesn’t last, but they also know this is the first good thing to happen to each of them, and they aren’t going to let it go.

The best YA captures all the feelings of teenagers without selling them short, and Rowell is superb with her details and her emotions. Everything is earnest and given the weight that it has at that time – before anyone is hardened or sure of themselves. Rowell also has a way of using universal “Is this just me, or does everyone…?” details that snap you into the moment and adds an extra layer of connection.

This is one of the best high school coming of age novels I’ve read and I can’t recommend it enough! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Eleanor & Park is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – High school freshman Charlie just wants the next four years to not suck. When seniors Sam and Patrick befriend him, he’s forced to start participating in life instead of watching from the sidelines. This is 90s and high school nostalgia at its finest, with a similar tone and subject matter. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – If you liked Eleanor & Park but wished for an older protagonist, twin sisters Cath and Wren are college freshmen going through a bit of a rough patch in their relationship. Cath is on her own for the first time, and her charming discomfort with this will bring back every memory you’ve ever had about trying to find yourself and fit in.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A clandestine friendship-turned-romance between cancer survivor Augustus Waters and terminal patient Hazel Lancaster is one for the ages. John Green’s quirky, gut-punching style is at its best – bring tissues! See my review here.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – Mim isn’t handling her family’s move to the south well, especially since her stepmother revealed her mother is still in Ohio, and very sick. She embarks on a spontaneous (and emotional) road trip to visit her mother. See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – The second in a duology (though it could stand alone), this is a sweet story of 16-year-old Lara Jean’s first romance. The romantic moments might be full of sugary thrills but there’s enough substance beneath them to make this a solid YA novel. See my review here.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – This classic novel contains one of the best-known and loved romances in literature. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy can’t imagine a single thing they have in common–unless it’s their dislike. But circumstances change, and Elizabeth learns the danger of relying on first impressions. See my review here.
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10 Comments (+add yours?)

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