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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is sceptical – and coming from a dysfunctional family, sharing a cramped room with all four of her siblings, and with an alcoholic stepfather – Richie – who is determined to get rid of them one by one, that’s understandable. Money is so scarce that even toothbrushes have become a luxury, and batteries for Eleanor’s Walkman are definitely not in plentiful supply. Eleanor describes herself as looking as a barmaid, and in terms of Eleanor’s appearance Park concludes, “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something” after she calls him out for saying she looks ‘nice’.

On the first day of school, Eleanor sits next to Park on the school bus. Park is the passably popular, half-Korean kid, separated from the larger social order by race, and his preference of comic books and good music. Over time, Eleanor begins to read the comics over Park’s shoulder, and eventually he lends them to her. They bond over their similar taste in music, and even start holding hands on the bus journey to and from school, which from Park’s point of view; “was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat.”.

Rainbow Rowell’s first novel for young adults  is precise, beautiful and haunting.A well-designed narrative providing the point of view from both Eleanor and Park provides an intense and immersive read. The ability to switch between both characters enables the reader to engage and develop connections with both sides of the story. Complex and interesting, this character-driven story will touch everyone and I would highly recommend making this your next read.

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