Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park is one of those books that crawls into your heart and sets up shop.  The cover is quiet and unassuming, and the flap copy might make you think this is a typical YA love story.  It seems like it will be full of YA tropes and cliches, but fear not.  It’s anything but typical.

Eleanor doesn’t have it easy.  She’s one of five children and her mother is married to a real jerk. She a father who just doesn’t seem to care at all and is largely absent from her life.  She shares a bedroom with her four siblings and spends her time at home tip-toeing around her stepfather.  But on the bus, Park steps up and shares his seat with her.  Over the next few weeks, they slowly begin sharing music, comic books and conversation. They are both geeks, which I love.  (Seriously, how much more can I love lines like this? ““You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”). Over the course of the book you watch Eleanor and Park fall truly, deeply, fantastically, and realistically in love.  Their love is big, but sometimes life is bigger.  It’s not easy relationship but you will root for them more than you do for some of you real-life friends.

Both characters are fully realized and fleshed out.  You will love Eleanor and Park and find yourself just wanting to hug them.  They are real teenagers and your heart will ache for them.  Life is out of their control but they do what they can to make the best of it.  And oh their best is just beautiful.

I can’t recommend Eleanor & Park enough.  If you love contemporary YA, John Green, or realistic love stories you must pick this up.  And make sure you have time, because you will want to read it one sitting.  And that’s high praise from me for a contemporary YA read. I fully expect to see this one on award lists at the end of the year.  It’s just that perfect.