On My Bookshelf: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

January 02, 2017

In Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, the two main characters form an unlikely friendship that transforms into an intense relationship. Eleanor helps Park  to accept who he is, while Park brings happiness to Eleanor's troubling home life. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.

Why I liked it: It's impossible not to fall in love with the main characters in Eleanor & ParkBoth Eleanor and Park are the kind of teenagers to whom you want to give a big hug and whisper "don't worry; there's life after high school."
In Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, the two main characters form an unlikely friendship that transforms into an intense relationship. Eleanor helps Park  to accept who he is, while Park brings happiness to Eleanor's troubling home life. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Eleanor has recently rejoined her family after spending a year with family friends because her stepfather kicked her out. Her mother is fearful and abused, and her younger siblings are also living in fear of her stepfather. Your heart just breaks for all of the children. They have to stay outside or hide in the bedroom that all five of them share to stay out of their stepfather's way. Things at school are not any better for Eleanor. Her tormentors settle on the nickname "Big Red" because of her size and hair color. Park is different too, but manages to mostly fly under the radar until Eleanor comes along. Thanks to her, he learns to embrace who he is and finally stand up for himself.

My favorite character in the novel is probably Park's mother, who has a wonderful relationship with his father and provides some comic relief.

Classroom application: Because of some of the language used, this is likely a book you'll want to preview before putting in your high school classroom library.

The novel is a perfect springboard for discussions about bullying and/or abusive relationships. Students could consider how they would act in the situations presented in the novel as well as research the legal options for someone like Eleanor or her mother. The novel could be paired with One for the Murphy's which deals with some similar issues.

Eleanor and Park are very different individuals, and perhaps that is part of what makes their relationship work. The novel could be used in literature circles focused on teenage relationships with other novels like Everything, Everything or If I Stay.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Eleanor & Park for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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