Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Rowell, Rainbow.  Eleanor & Park.  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.  $17.99. 320p.

Author’s Website: http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Online Reviews:

Reader’s Annotation:  While cassette tapes and The Smiths might be from another time, first love and the horrors of high school are timeless.


They call her Big Red because of her size and her flaming red hair.  She wears clothing from the thrift shop and covers holes in her jeans with pieces of fabric safety pinned on. She acts as if she does not care what they say and as if they can never break her.  Living with her mother, four younger siblings, and sleazy stepfather, Eleanor also has a less than ideal home life.  Books, writing, and music are her escape.

He comes from a solid family with a Korean mother who runs a hair salon out of their garage; a white, ex-military father who is horrible at teaching driving; a younger brother who towers over him; and grandparents that live next door.  Park keeps his head down on the bus, reading comics or listening to his music.  He gives up his invisibility when he reluctantly allows Eleanor to sit next to him on the bus ride to school one day.

A tentative connection over comic books and music soon blossoms into first love.  And like all first loves, family, friends, and various other obstacles loom in the distance.


This novel was a beautiful and realistic portrait of first love and all the awkwardness and challenges of it coming to fruition.  The characters are unique and well-developed in their insecurities, inner thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns.  The dual point of view from both Eleanor and Park allows the reader to really empathize with both protagonists.  The first person point of view does, however, prevent the reader from learning some details that the narrators either do not understand themselves or choose not to acknowledge.  This adds to the tension and the conflict of the story.  The setting in the 1980’s is chock full of details straight out of the time period.  Rowell uses beautiful figurative language in her descriptions of the characters and events throughout the book.  Besides the theme of first love and its challenges, she also deals with other issues that are pertinent to teens:  family dynamics and relationships, poverty, being different, finding ones’ self and identity, and even abuse.

Rating Scale:·

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 5
  • Quality: 5

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction

Appeal Factors:  first love, pop culture references, humor, witty dialogue

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • I Am J by Chris Beam
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Awards Won & Book Lists:

  • 2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2013
  • New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013 An NPR Best Book of 2013

Booktalking Ideas:

  • The part where Park and Eleanor first meet
  • The part where Eleanor goes over to Park’s for the first time
  • The part where Eleanor goes through her grapefruit box

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Described as “star-crossed lovers,” in what ways are Eleanor and Park doomed to fail?
  • How do Park and Eleanor’s families form who they are as people?
  • What would you have done to help Eleanor after she discovers it is Richie who has been writing obscene things on her textbooks?
  • (spoiler) What does the post card from Eleanor say?

Why I chose it: 

I chose this novel because of a review that I read by John Green.  It also hooked me because of the time period it was set in, as well as the music references.  The cover art was also a hook because of the girl and boy connected by headphones.  I was also drawn by the theme of struggling to overcome obstacles of first love.


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