What You Need to Know:|
• An uncomfortable situation leads to a surprising connection and an intense bond between two 10th graders,
Eleanor and Park.
• It's a teen romance, so you'll find passion, emotion and a physical relationship that progresses, although not too far,
throughout the book.
• There's a fair amount of foul language, and there are references to pot and alcohol.
• Eleanor is ridiculed and bullied, both at home and at school.
• Racial differences are woven into the story, like the fact that Park is half Korean or that black kids are bused in
from west Omaha.
• Eleanor & Park is the 2014 Printz Honor Book for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and the winner of the 2013
Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book.
• Check out rainbowrowell.com to learn more about the characters.
Eleanor & Park is not your average love story. It's an authentic portrayal of first love and all the drama that goes along with it, but the intensity and power of those feelings are set against a backdrop of harsh realities. If Eleanor and Park want to be together, they need to go beyond fighting stereotypes and teenage bullies, they need to confront their own personal demons.
The story is set in 1986, when a walkman is about as high-tech as it gets, but other than the 80's music and pop culture references, the high school scene will be all too familiar to kids today. There's bullying, cursing, and fighting. There are mean girls, clueless teachers, painful school bus rides, racist comments, and sexual innuendos. And, if that's not enough to push a kid over the edge, there's always the family.
Eleanor and Park first meet on the bus. Park's in his usual position, slouched in his seat, reading comic books and listening to music, trying to drown out the "morons" and stay somewhat invisible, when Eleanor appears for the first time. Whether it's her size (described as big) or her crazy curly red hair or her odd combination of clothing and accessories, Eleanor can't help but stand out. Every kid refuses her a seat, but then Park does something unexpected, even to himself. He tells her to sit, however angrily, and changes the world for both of them.
As the story switches back and forth from Eleanor's thoughts to Park's, readers get an honest and sincere, possibly rare, view into the minds of two teenagers as they experience the beauty and pain of first love. Their bond builds slowly, carefully, tenderly, but when they finally do connect, it's powerful. "Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive." Who knew holding hands could have such meaning? And, seeing Eleanor through Park's eyes is enlightening and inspiring - "She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something." But, their connection is not just physical. They share their opinions, open up about their feelings and insecurities, and offer each other support. Eleanor is coping with more than just your typical teenage angst, with a deadbeat dad, a potentially dangerous stepdad, a checked-out mom, and a lack of cash that leaves her without even a toothbrush for a while. Park's home life is slightly more stable, but his parents have trouble learning to accept him for who he is. The connection between Eleanor and Park makes anything seem possible, but can they take on the world and still stay together?
Rainbow Rowell does an amazing job of giving readers a romance with substance and meaning. The action and the dialogue are artfully conveyed and consistently realistic, not at all contrived or overly dramatized. Read it, savor it, share it, discuss it, and read it again - Eleanor & Park is a pleasure you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in.
2013, 336 pages
Award Winners, Bullying, Divorce, Ethnicity, Family Life, Feelings, Romance, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• Why do you think the author chose to set the book in 1986?
• In what ways is life better or worse without technology?
• Why is Lisa so mean to Eleanor?
• How does music help Eleanor & Park get through their days?
• Why does Eleanor dress the way she does?
• How would you describe Eleanor? What does she look like? Is she brave?
• If Park and Eleanor each had to describe Eleanor's appearance, how would their descriptions differ?
• What three words does Eleanor say on her postcard?
• Do you think Eleanor and Park end up together?
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