In the midst of all the addicting YA dystopian/fantasy fiction, I had forgotten what reading a hauntingly beautiful, poignantly well-written novel felt like. Eleanor & Park was so good that I read it three times over the course of a week, savoring it, delighting in it, and finally feeling compelled to jot down all of the quotes that made me feel things. Not to mention, it’s the first book I’ve wanted to own and not just read once in a long, long time. Thanks, Amazon, for the book recommendation and for making it so easy to find and buy the books I love.
Eleanor & Park is a story about two misfits — Park, who is half-Korean in the Midwest in the 80s, and Eleanor, a smart, sassy, sarcastic “big girl” with a horrible stepfather. Their friendship and relationship evolves so naturally and I love how the author switches back and forth between their two perspectives to give you a sense of how they think. I love Park’s parents — Jamie, his “typical” big and strong veteran father, and Mindy, his immigrant wife that he met while serving abroad. The feel like real people and their relationship is real, but inspiring at the same time.
It’s just such a good, good, GOOD story — and John Green’s review in the NY Times is only one example of the heaps of praise it has received. Super recommend.
Disclaimer: Rainbow Rowell, the author, uses some graphic language but it’s done realistically. Her use of language is clearly intentional and meant to paint a more real picture of Omaha life on that side of the tracks and it often stirs up (what feels like) righteous outrage at some of the things going on… not to mention, people really do talk like that in high school, even in the clean and polished southern part of Orange County I grew up in.
Documenting my favorite lines below — would recommend you not read them until you’ve read E&P as they can be spoiler-y, but because this is my blog and I’m writing them down for me… you can just scroll on through. Warning–longest post ever.
- “Eleanor looked a lot like her. But not enough… At sixteen, Eleanor was already built like she ran a medieval pub.” (18)
- “It made sense that Tina was in Eleanor’s gym class–because gym was an extension of hell, and Tina was definitely a demon.” (23)
- “[English teacher] ‘Tell us, why has Romeo and Juliet survived four hundred years?’
‘Because… because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?'” (45)
- “It was bad enough that, thanks to Richie’s influence, she went around mentally calling everyone she meant a ‘motherfucker.’ (Irony.)” (53)
- “He emptied all his handheld video games and Josh’s remote control cars, and called his grandma to tell her that all he wanted for his birthday in November was AA batteries.” (60)
- “DeNice and the other girl, the big girl, Beebi, talked to Eleanor now in gym. (Because being assaulted with maxi pads is a great way to win friends and influence people.)” (61)
- “If someone had been watching, what would they have seen? Park couldn’t imagine what his face had looked like… Like somebody taking the first drink in a Diet Pepsi commercial. Over-the-top bliss.” (73)
- “Saturdays were the worst.” (75, 79)
- “Mondays were the best.” (80)
- “Dimples on top of freckles, which shouldn’t even be allowed… It was kind of amazing that more people didn’t try to pinch her cheeks. His grandma was definitely going to pinch her when they met.” (90)
- “Sometimes it seemed like she would never be able to give Park anything like what he’d given her…
She couldn’t repay him. She couldn’t even appropriately thank him. How can you thank someone for the Cure? Or the X-Men? Sometimes it felt like she’d always be in his debt.
And then she realized that Park didn’t know about the Beatles.” (99)
- “‘You heard your mother,’ their dad said. ‘You don’t get to talk like that in this house.’
‘You talk like that,’ Josh said, dragging himself off the couch.
‘I’m thirty-nine years old,’ their dad said, ‘and a decorated veteran. I’ll say whatever the hell I want.’
Their mother jabbed a long fingernail at his dad and covered the phone again, ‘I’ll send you to your room, too.’
‘Honey, I wish you would,” their dad said, throwing a throw pillow at her.” (102)
- “Park’s mom made Eleanor feel like a giant… If you were an alien who came to Earth to study its life forms, you wouldn’t even think the two of them were the same species… When Eleanor was around girls like that… she wondered where they put their organs. Like, how could you have a stomach and intestines and kidneys, and still wear such tiny jeans?” (126)
- “‘Embarrassing me?’ she said. ‘Or embarrassing you?’
He looked back at her, stricken. And she knew again that she was right. Damn it. Why did he keep letting her be right about all this crappy stuff?” (130)
- “Park’s mom was so mad, she wouldn’t come get him. She called his dad at work. When his dad showed up, the principal thought he was Steve’s dad.
‘Actually,’ his dad said, pointing at Park, ‘that one’s mine.'” (133)
- “Whenever her mom found money, she tried to spend it on things Richie would never notice… Her mom had become some kind of genius double agent since she hooked up with Richie. It was like she was keeping them all alive behind his back.” (138)
- “She saw him after seventh hour in a place she’d never seen him before, carrying a microscope down the hall on the third floor. It was at least twice as nice as seeing him somewhere she expected him to be.” (160)
- “It was good that she was so nervous–because it forced him not to be. It steadied him to feel her trembling.” (167)
- “Going with Tina was such powerful social currency, Park was still spending it.” (177)
- “He’d thought he was over caring what people thought about him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He kept finding new ways to betray her.” (178)
- “His parents gave him a fifty-dollar gift certificate to Drastic Plastic, the punk rock record store downtown. (Park was surprised that they’d think of that. And he was surprised that DP sold gift certificates. Not very punk.)” (194)
- “‘Why doesn’t she leave?’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t think she can… I don’t think there’s enough of her left.'” (196)
- “Park had used most of his car stereo money to buy the necklace. He’d found it at the jewelry store in the mall where people try on engagement rings.” (202)
- “Eleanor was twelve, and she couldn’t imagine a guy fucking her mom over worse than her dad had.
She didn’t know there were things worse than selfish.” (204)
- “”I know that your stepdad isn’t an easy man to be around… And I’m just saying, you know, that if it’s easier to be over here, then you should just be here. That would make Mindy and me feel a lot better, okay?'” (209)
- “‘You look like you,’ he said. ‘You with the volume turned up.’
She looked in the mirror again.
‘The thing is,’ Park said. “I’m pretty sure my mom was holding back. I think she thinks this is the natural look'” (216)
- “‘Go to school, Park,’ his mom said softly. ‘You miss the bus.’
‘Mindy…’ his dad said, just barely restraining himself, ‘they’ll tear him apart.’
‘You tell me Park all grown up now, almost man, make own decisions. So let him make own decisions. Let him go’
His dad didn’t say anything; he’d never raise his voice to Park’s mom. Park saw his opportunity and left.” (218)
- “‘I have a girlfriend now,’ Josh said, ‘can she start coming over?’
‘No girlfriend,’ their mom said, ‘too young.’
‘I’m almost thirteen!’
‘Sure,’ their dad said, ‘your girlfriend can come over. If you’re willing to give up your Nintendo.’
‘What?’ Josh was stricken. ‘Why?’
‘Because I said so,’ his dad said. ‘Is it a deal?’
‘No! No way,’ Josh said. ‘Does Park have to give up Nintendo?’
‘Yep. Is that okay with you, Park?’
‘I’m like Billy Jack,’ their dad said, ‘a warrior and a shaman.'” (244)
- “Their car wasn’t in the driveway, so Eleanor figured Park’s family wasn’t home. They were probably off doing awesome family stuff. Eating lunch at Bonanza and having their portraits taken in matching sweaters.” (247)
- “‘Did… the way you acted today have something to do with seeing me yesterday?’
…’Yeah,’ he said quietly.
Eleanor didn’t say anything for a minute or so. And then…
‘Tina would be so pissed.'” (254)
- “And his dad hadn’t said anything more than “Don’t get anybody pregnant” since he told Park about sex in the fifth grade. (He’d told Josh at the same time, which was insulting.)” (257)
- “‘Meantime, you have your license if you need it. For emergency.’
That seemed like a pretty weak excuse to get his license. Park had gone sixteen years without a driving emergency.” (259)
- “‘Yeah, go,’ [Park’s mom] said. ‘I never get house to myself.’
She was home all day, every day by herself, but Park decided not to mention it. He and Eleanor stood up cautiously from the couch. Like they were expecting his mom to say April fools! two weeks late.” (266)
- “Park held her hand the whole night, like he was her boyfriend. Because he is your boyfriend, dummy, she kept telling herself.
Much to the dismay of the girl working at the record store. She had eight holes in each ear, and she clearly thought Park was a whole closet full of cat’s pajamas. The girl looked at Eleanor like, Are you kidding me? And Eleanor looked back like, I know, right?” (269)
- “The Impala might not look pervy on the outside, not like a fully carpeted custom van or something–but the inside was a different story. The front seat was almost as big as Eleanor’s bed, and the backseat was an Erica Jong novel waiting to happen” (273)
- “This was her mom’s fault.
If Eleanor were allowed to have normal relationships with boys, she wouldn’t have felt like she had to hit a home run the very first time she ended up in the backseat of a car–she wouldn’t have felt like it might be her only time at bat. (And she wouldn’t be making these stupid baseball metaphors.)” (277)
- “Maybe she should feel bad about involving him in all this, but she didn’t. He was right: The worst thing that would happen to him (barring some terrible accident) was that he’d be grounded. And being grounded at his house was like winning the Price is Right Showcase compared to what would happen if Eleanor got caught.” (293)
- “He could have made a run for it, but his dad probably would’ve caught him. He was always bragging about being in the best shape of his life.” (295)
- “‘Don’t thank me yet. I’ve got one condition.’
No more eyeliner, Park thought.” (297)
- “He loved how much they loved each other. It was the thing he thought about when he woke up scared in the middle of the night. Not that they loved him–they were his parents, they had to love him. That they loved each other. They didn’t have to do that.
None of his friends’ parents were still together, and in every case, that seemed like the number one thing that had gone wrong with his friends’ lives.
But Park’s parents loved each other. They kissed each other on the mouth, no matter who was watching.
What were the chances you’d meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away?
The math seemed impossible. How did his parents get so lucky?” (301)
- “‘We have to say good-bye anyway,’ she said. ‘Does it matter if it’s now or a few hours from now or tomorrow morning?’
‘Are you kidding?’ He looked down at her, hoping he’d miss his turn. ‘Yes.'” (309)
I warned you… #longestpostever