Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book that bursts with that giddy, tentative, joyous feeling of new love and new discovery, while at the same time being juxtaposed with darker issues of abuse and self-image. Putting those two different things together made Eleanor & Park a read that made you feel as if you were in the bright midday sunshine one moment, and the next moment stuck in a thunderstorm in the darkest part of the night. The narrative moves surprisingly swiftly despite the romance aspect, and the 80's nostalgia, punk rock, and great writing only make it better.
Eleanor & Park didn't feel entirely realistic, but that seemed to work for it. It felt unrealistic in the sense that some parts were overly sweet, and Park's character felt a little unrealistic--too perfect-- sometimes. But if you take the story for what it's worth, I think that slightly out-of-touch with reality feeling makes it almost magical.
The characters were quirky, adorable, and had a lot of depth. They really grow on you, and the alternating points of view is partly responsible for this- and they also allow you to feel each of their separate feelings more intensely. The cast of secondary characters--Eleanor and Park's families and the kids on the bus- rounded things out in a fun, interesting way.
I'd recommend this for fans of Stargirl, The Future of Us, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.