I’m going to start by pointing out that I generally dislike romances, which is something you might have heard me say a few times in the past. However, the few romance books that I do like, the ones that don’t make me drop the book and walk away laughing, usually have something pretty special to make me overcome my dislike of the genre. For a while, the only books with romantic elements that I enjoyed were books that blended romance with genres that I usually read, like fantasy, science fiction, mystery and horror. So if teens in my library asked me for a “good romance,” I was likely to steer them towards fantasy-filled stories with romantic elements, like The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, Look For Me by Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn, or Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.
But every once in a while I come across a romance that doesn’t have any vampires (sparkling or otherwise), ghosts, werewolves, or other supernatural elements but which I still find enjoyable because of its well-drawn plot and characters. One of those books is Not That Kind of Girl by Siobahn Vivian, which I will be telling you about very soon. Another one of those books is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, which I just finished reading last week and I had to share with you RIGHT NOW.
I first heard about Eleanor & Park from an unusual source — Linda Holmes from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. She recommended this book several times on the podcast, and I thought that if a teen book had that much appeal to an adult reader I should definitely check it out. Well, it was definitely worth the read, and absolutely worth recommending to teens who are looking for a “good romance.”
Eleanor and Park are like oil and water.
Park is small for his age, he’s half-Asian with straight dark hair, and he’s kind of a dork. Eleanor is big for her age, she has curly red hair, and … well, a lot of kids are afraid of her because they don’t know what she’ll do next. Eleanor and Park also have very different home lives. Park’s home life is pretty close to perfect — his parents and grandparents love him, and he lives in a beautiful house where everything is neat and clean and in the right place. While Eleanor’s home life … well, the less said about that, the better.
Eleanor and Park are so different that they don’t even belong on the same planet. But when Eleanor gets on the school bus and needs a seat, the only one available is next to Park. And so begins a relationship that starts slowly, by sharing comic books and music, and grows into something deep and amazing that has the power to change both of their lives forever.