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September 9, 2013

“Eleanor and Park”

by Anne Paddock

He loved how much they loved each other. It was the thing he thought about when he woke up scared in the middle of the night. Not that they loved him – they were his parents, they had to love him. That they loved each other. They didn’t have to do that.

16-year old Parker “Park” Sheridan lives in a suburb outside Omaha, Nebraska with his parents and younger brother, Josh. Next door are his paternal grandparents (his maternal grandparents live in Korea where his mother is from). A tight-knit family, the Sheridans “were practically the Waltons” although Park feels somewhat disconnected from the love fest his parents share between themselves.

Park loves music – especially Elvis Costello – and comic books, spending the 30 minute school bus ride listening to music and reading Watchman, Swamp Thing, and X-Men. And, then one day a new girl named Eleanor gets on the bus and sits next to Park and life is never the same.

Eleanor and Pak BookEleanor has curly red hair, “a face shaped like a box of chocolates,…a million freckles and chubby baby cheeks,…dimples on top of freckles” and is “built like she ran a medieval pub.” The oldest of five children, Eleanor lives with her mother and abusive stepfather in a house down the street from Park.  Life is cruel in many ways and Eleanor knows that she lives in a private hell both at home and in school, where she doesn’t fit in and is often taunted by her classmates. Hoping to avoid confrontation, Eleanor sits next to Park on the school bus on the first day of school and the story begins.

Eleanor & Park is the story of two 16-year olds who find each other during their sophomore year of high school.  Set over the course of one school year beginning in August, 1986, Eleanor & Park is a love story of two unlikely teens who share a passion for music, comic books and each other while navigating school, family, and the bumpy road of adolescence.  Park makes Eleanor feel “like the world wasn’t what she’d thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.” And, Eleanor makes Park feel like the most interesting human being in the world and a handsome prince who had a face that was like art, the “sort of face you painted because you didn’t want history to forget it.”

Written by Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park is young adult fictional  literature in which the story is told in 58 short alternating chapters by both Eleanor and Park. A quick and well-written read for anyone who remembers what its like not to fit in – and falling in love the first time and wanting it to be the forever love. At times sad and alarming but more often hilarious, Eleanor & Park is a book that both adults and teens will enjoy.

There’s only one of him,…and he’s right here. He knows I’ll like a song before I’ve heard it. He laughs before I even get to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes me want to let him open doors for me. There’s only one of him.

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