I don't usually write reviews right upon finishing a book, but Eleanor and Park is different. It's been a few hours since I closed it and my heart is still overwhelmed. I want to crawl inside this book; I wish I'd written it. Truly magnificent. There are lots of reasons why.
1) Eleanor and Park are both REAL. They fall into this relationship in the most bizarre of ways (she's forced to sit with him on the bus) and yet, it all makes perfect sense. A relationship that develops slowly and as friends has a true base, and you can feel it in every word.
2) The home lives of each one are entirely believable. I know people who have as messed up home lives as Eleanor, and they struggle to overcome every day. I also know people who have relatively normal, sane parents who strive to make a good home for their kids, even if they sometimes mess up along the way. Eleanor's world and Park's world are in perfect contrast to one another and they work.
3) Eleanor works hard to rise above the horrible way she is treated at home and in school, but she also has a pretty impenetrable wall that only Park can get around. And yet, he still messes up. It's all a journey and both Eleanor and Park make major strides in becoming the person they want to be.
4) It has a killer soundtrack. I grew up in the 80s and I loved the references to music I knew and loved, and I love how it tied Eleanor and Park together and to the storyline. Music speaks when we can't.
5) The emotions are raw. There are so many and I experienced them all through the beauty of Rowell's writing: pain, anger, resignation, desperation, passion, happiness, embarrassment. You name it, it's there, and each emotion leaps off the page and wraps itself around you.
6) That ENDING. Wow. Just wow. Please don't write a sequel; it's perfect as it is.
7) Rowell's writing. I know I've already mentioned this but it is just exquisite. When Eleanor talks about Park's arms being a tourniquet around her...how beautiful. And it's all like this.
There's a lot of adult language and I did get upset that Eleanor was so hesitant about Park but it's all a part of the story and every single bit makes sense. My heart hurt, my heart sang, my heart got dragged through it all. Now I just want to sit here and hold the book and experience it all again. Yes, it's that gush-worthy. Yes, it's that moving. Yes, you need to read it. Right now. Highly, highly recommended.