Eleanor and Park – A Book Review


I purchased this book on Audible for a long flight to Hawaii over six months ago, however, due to a back injury, I had to upgrade to first class and I took advantage of all the good movies available. Therefore, I did not actually listen to this book until my recent flight to Puerto Rico.

I had no idea what I had missed out on. Eleanor and Park. I laughed…a lot. I cried…a lot. I couldn’t put my earbuds down to get anything done my first day in San Juan. When the Wi-Fi went down at my Airbnb spot in Ponce, I was actually happy to shut my laptop and pick up right where I had left off in the story.

This book is based in 1986 and both characters were the same age that I was at the time. So there’s that. Regardless, anyone who is or has ever been a teenager can identify with the awkwardness of those years as well as the teen angst of first love.

Eleanor is the “new girl” at school, a complete misfit. Not necessarily because she wants to be. It is mainly due to being so poor that she doesn’t even own a toothbrush. Her MacGyver approach to this is admirable. Eleanor appears to be comfortable in her own skin. But this is, of course, a front.

Park, being half Korean, half Caucasian also feels like a misfit. However, unlike Eleanor, he grew up in their neighborhood. This at least benefits his acceptance of others in school. Just barely.

Their relationship is hardly love at first site. Eleanor and Park are so completely different, yet they share the same seats on the daily bus ride to school. Neither are happy about it and don’t even talk for several weeks. They both have incredibly harsh words to describe each other. These words, of course, are only in their minds, as they won’t even acknowledge each other out loud.

I really need to get my nails done…Anyway, this relationship develops in an extremely slow fashion. Park first realizes Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder. He begins to read them slower, to make sure she is able to catch every word. They begin to bond over comics, The Smiths, and Joy Division.

I found many “interpretations” on YouTube but this one was the best so far:

But Eleanor is living in a dangerously dysfunctional home. Her step-father despises her and it only increases when he is drunk – which is most of the time. Park, has the normal father-son difficulties but is otherwise in a far more functioning household. Park’s parents are just about the only couple still married in the neighborhood.

These two youngsters connect in such a slow, deep, and quiet manner you wonder if they are ever going to kiss. The reader (or listener in my case) will not be disappointed. Though, with the continually rising tension in Eleanor’s home, it is difficult to see this story ending well. The anticipation is fierce for the reader.

One of their best conversations:

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.

So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be, she says, we’re 16.

What about Romeo and Juliet?

Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.

Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be.

The finale, like their relationship, is a long process. Sometimes painful, sometimes humorous. All the while, worth taking a good…long…time to read.

Stay Blissful My Friends. – E


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