Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
Don’t let the authors name put you off – this is anything but free love view of the world. Eleanor and Park is an extremely intelligent coming of age tale set in the reality of 1986 USA. Park keeps his head down, he’s grown up and been to school with the same bunch of kids his whole life and he knows exactly where he fits in the scheme of things, until the day Eleanor gets on the bus and he feels obliged to offer her the seat next to him. Eleanor has just been allowed to move back home after being kicked out by her low-life stepdad, she’s aware that she looks different – stands out – and this is the exact opposite of what she wants. Over the next few months their mutual sufferance of each other becomes a tentative friendship, which then becomes that most precious of all things – first love.
What makes this so much more than just another coming of age novel is the intelligence of Rowell’s writing. Her depth of understanding and the art with which she relays the characters feelings and experiences is transcendent and places this novel among the best I’ve read. This novel is so easy to relate to, every new experience is one we’ve all had, as readers we get to experience every first touch and thought in such an authentic way that this will be a novel that stays with us all.