Two misfits on the bus to school, in fair Omaha where we lay our scene. A pair of star-crossed lovers swap cassettes, and try to keep their comic books pristine.
Okay, we tried.
Eleanor & Park is the story of two outsiders who fall in love, but if you think you've heard this story before, think again. Their romance happens in the wrong place at the wrong time, but together, Eleanor and Park are anything but wrong. Just like Shakespeare's unlucky R & J, our heroes are destined to be torn apart, but along the way they share something incredible.
This book isn't just the fireworks, rainbows, and violins of first love, though; Rainbow Rowell's 2013 Eleanor & Park deals with issues like bullying, discrimination, and domestic violence. Eleanor, new at school, stands out in a crowd: She's got fiery red hair, a curvy body type, and a thing for wearing men's clothing, so from day one, she's targeted by bullies at school and on the bus. This is roses and sunshine compared to Eleanor's home life, though, where her stepdad, Richie, is a violent alcoholic who keeps Eleanor's household in a state of constant terror.
Park's upbringing is happy and sheltered in comparison, but he's got his own set of issues. Raised by a Korean mom and an Army vet dad, Park's set apart by his race and his interest in music and comic books. When he gives Eleanor a seat on the bus one fateful morning, he sparks an unlikely friendship that turns into pure chemistry.
Set in 1986, Eleanor and Park's story is infused with pop culture, comic books, and music from the mid-80s, from punk rock to new wave. As these two slowly fall in love to the sound of Park's Walkman, though, we get the feeling that just like their favorite Joy Division song, love will (unfortunately) tear them apart.
But don't cry—Eleanor & Park manages to be snarky, hilarious, incredibly real, and in the end, hopeful.
Well, okay, you can cry a little bit.
No vampires required. Young adult lit loves its vampires, but Eleanor & Park doesn't need the undead to tell a romantic story that will make you swoon. Author Rainbow Rowell writes about romance with so much wit and intelligence that you might be inspired to circle her sentences and draw little hearts around them. Park and Eleanor fall in love with each other, but we think you'll be in love with both of them by the time the book's over.
Not only that, you'll probably relate to them. Have you ever felt like an outsider? Ever dealt with bullying at school? Have you ever been judged because of the way you look? Eleanor and Park deal with all of this, plus a few issues that are a lot more serious. These two seem like real teenagers, and even if you don't have something in common with them, you'll wish you could hang out with them. Or at least swap mix tapes.
Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park Page
Get the latest news straight from the author herself on Rainbow Rowell's official page for Eleanor & Park.
Macmillan's Eleanor & Park Page
If you need even more official news and information, check out Macmillan, the folks who publish Eleanor & Park. They've got book trailers, reviews, and lots of Rainbow Rowell-related links.
MTV: Rainbow Rowell talks about E&P on the big screen
Rowell talked to MTV about her hopes for the big screen version of Eleanor & Park.
Goodreads Q&A with Rainbow Rowell
Rowell answers some essential questions here: What's her favorite '80s music? How about her favorite YA novels? Don't miss this interview.
YALSA Interview with Rainbow Rowell
Lots about Rainbow Rowell's own teenage years here.
Publishers Weekly Rainbow Rowell Interview
More about Rowell's inspiration for Eleanor & Park, plus the music that inspired her.
The Toast: Rainbow Rowell on Love & Censorship
Rowell's little YA book was kind of a big deal when the Parents Action League in Minnesota tried to ban it. Find out what happened here.
Fan-made Book Trailer
There are lots of great fan tributes to Eleanor & Park on YouTube—here's one that uses lots of excellent fan art with a good soundtrack.
"Infinitely" by Jenna Clare, featuring Dave Connis
An Eleanor & Park fan wrote and performed a song inspired by the book. How cool is that?
Rainbow Rowell's Playlists for Eleanor & Park
Okay, if there's an essential link for this book, this is it. Rowell herself shares the playlists that inspired her while writing, complete with commentary. Don't know what Park's XTC song sounds like? Never heard Joy Division? You have to fix this.
Rainbow Rowell's Pinterest Page: Eleanor & Park Fan art
If you can't already tell, Eleanor & Park has inspired a devoted fan following, and a lot of these fans have expressed their love by creating beautiful fan art. Rowell maintains a Pinterest board of some of her favorites. Definitely worth seeing.
Eleanor Douglas Cosplay
A fan of the book with a remarkable resemblance to Eleanor herself—pretty cool.