Eleanor and Park may be one of my favorite books I have read in a very long time. The book captured in an extremely powerful way the helpless feeling that comes with being in love at 16 years old. One of my favorite parts about this book is that both Eleanor and Park had much better things to do, it seems, than fall in love with one another. Eleanor’s home life is a huge source of stress and shame for her, soaking up most of her time and energy. She also knows that she would not be allowed a normal relationship, since her step father would try to ruin or stop it in one way or another. Park thinks that Eleanor is weird and slightly obnoxious in the way she steps outside of social norms in such an in-your-face kind of way. Neither of them fell hopelessly in love at first sight the way many characters young adult novels seem to. This story has a grit to it that hit extremely close to home for me and brought me to tears several different times.
One of my favorite aspects of the story is the bullying that surrounds Eleanor and Park’s reaction to it. The way they describe her as someone who attracts that kind of negative attention is what made me fall in love with the character of Eleanor, as I could very much relate to her in this way. I also really like the way that Park at first dislikes just like the other kids for the way she breaks social norms with just her existence. This was made so much more powerful to me when further in the book, though he loved her for the ways she was different, he was still embarrassed to be seen around her. This is a point that I feel needs to be addressed more often in young adult literature. Many novels cover the topic of bullying but the specific pain of when even those who like you don’t want to stand up for you is not a frequently mentioned topic. I think this topic is so important, though because it occurs so frequently in high school, and I think it is important for kids to know that they aren’t the only ones feeling alienated even by the people who love them. Park learns to stick up for her, despite what others say and it seemed to me that only then was he truly able to say that he loved Eleanor. I think that this is an important thing for anyone to understand, especially teenagers experiencing and discovering what it would mean to be in an equal relationship. By the end of the book, I think Eleanor and Park shows a great example of what true, equal, and unapologetic young love can and should look like.
I chose this image for this novel because much of Eleanor and Park’s relationship comes from a mutual liking of bands, comic books, and other pop culture and entertainment. I really liked this as this was yet another part of Eleanor to which I could relate. I found that not only did she and I have a similar taste in music, but the fact that their similar tastes became mostly the basis of their entire friendship is something I have found to be the case with many of my own friendships.