“He’d stopped trying to bring her back.
She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken-down déjà vu.
Like, he’d be driving to work, and he’d see a girl with red hair standing on the corner—and he’d swear, for half a chocking moment, that it was her.
Then he’d see that the girl’s hair was more blond than red.
And that she was holding a cigarette… And wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt.
Eleanor hated the Sex Pistols.
Standing behind him until he turned his head. Lying next to him just before he woke up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough.
Eleanor ruining everything.
He’d stopped trying to bring her back.”- Eleanor & Park, P. 1
When I first read the introduction to Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (awesome name, fyi) I immediately concluded that Eleanor was a jerk and that this story was about how Park, our male protagonist, has to deal with first love. Mind you, this was not necessarily a bad conclusion, but alas I was wrong. This story is so much deeper and at the same time so much more frivolous because it is a first love story involving two human teens who have to deal with very human issues, in 1986.
Eleanor is new, she has just moved back with her mother after being away for a year. We later find out that the reason behind this is her stepfather and the abuse relationship her mother has with him. Eleanor is nicked named Big Red because she is busty and she has extremely red hair, also this is not a good nickname, she is being bullied. She will be bullied from the moment she walks on the bus right down to gym class. At first the only reprieve she has is sitting on the bus with Park.
Park is your typical American high school student, except that he is half Korean and half Irish, something that is not widely accepted without some jokes during the 1980’s. He isn’t unpopular but everyone sees him as an “other.” He also seems to have is stuff together intellectually and maturity wise compared to the kids in the bus. That is, until he meets Eleanor and figures he might be just as shallow as everyone else.
As time progresses the two, very slowly, start to communicate. First through comics then through music. As slow as that started, the hand holding, thinking of each other, professing love comes even quicker. All the while Eleanor deals with being bullied and keeping Park a secret, because her stepfather is obsessive about her, in all the wrong ways. This is a love story that will remind you of your first like, about the boy/girl that you talked to for hours on the phone/aim/notes and make you remember why that particular person was better than everyone else. Most of all it reminds you of the splendid innocence of first love and the biting ache of your first heartbreak.