Eleanor has just moved back in with her mother after being kicked out of the house a year earlier by her stepfather. Park is a half-Korean teenage boy who doesn’t quite fit in with his peers. When Eleanor starts at the local high school, she sits next to Park on the bus, and after a rough start, the two begin to get to know each other through comic books and music. Set in the 1980s, this is a great love story, but it’s not the kind of meet-cute one might expect; instead, this is a story of realistic love in the midst of unfortunate circumstances.
Rainbow Rowell does a great job of balancing the two characters and giving equal time to their perspectives, even switching between the two for chapters or as little as a single sentence at a time in order to show both sides of a given situation. The audiobook employs two narrators to help differentiate between these characters and really bring the characters to life, making them feel like close friends.
The author also does well to balance the love story with the more serious issues of bullying and abuse and difficult home situations. Eleanor & Park is a book for fans of Rowell’s other novel (also new in 2013) Fangirl, and especially readers who enjoy the co-written books by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, including Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, which share similar themes, characters, and multiple perspective formats.