Eleanor and Park: First Love at Its Finest

Genre: Teen, Contemporary

Page Count: 328 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I did this book for a reading vlog without knowing anything about it and that turned out to be a mistake. This book was a lot heavier than I anticipated. Trigger warnings for domestic violence and child abuse for those who want to read it.

Together, Eleanor and Park are excellent. They have witty dialogue full of 80’s references and general high school silliness. The two of them together made me nostalgic for high school with their cuteness.

That was definitely needed because the rest of the book was really dark.

From the start, Eleanor isn’t doing well. As the new kid in school, she is an easy target for bullies and has no friends to turn to (at least until Park). But her home life is even worse. After living off a neighbor’s couch for a year, Eleanor was finally allowed to move back into her mom’s house, where her mom and siblings live under the tyrannical rule of Ritchie, a violent and abusive alcoholic.

In Eleanor’s house, the feeling of danger and unease is always there, heightened by nightly fights between Ritchie and the mother and having no bathroom door. Eleanor only really feels safe in the house when Ritchie isn’t there.

Her escape becomes Park, the quiet boy on the bus who let her sit next to him and lets her read comic books over his shoulder. Slowly they develop a reluctant friendship which turns into love.

I really like Eleanor. I think she’s really smart and witty and very relatable. She’s insecure about her body and the abuse definitely took a toll on her emotional state. But in general, she’s just a normal teenager.

Park is a typical teenager as well. He’s frustratingly insecure and angsty, which makes him act like a jerk to Eleanor sometimes, especially in the beginning. But despite that, he’s usually a really nice guy who cares deeply for Eleanor. He’s pretty understanding about her home life and is patient with her, which I really like. He does a lot of things that he thinks are small, like lending Eleanor comics and making her mixtapes, but they mean the world to Eleanor, and it’s really sweet.

The only time I didn’t like him was when he found out someone was writing dirty messages on Eleanor’s textbook and he accused her of writing the messages herself. That was really out-of-character for him and was pretty horrible. Aside from that, though, he was nice. He was, in general, a normal, realistic teenage boy.

My biggest problem with the book was the ending. It wasn’t satisfying for me because it ends abruptly and I didn’t get enough closure about Eleanor’s family. It’s hinted at that they move out of the toxic house but it’s never confirmed. So because of that, it’s only 4 out of 5 stars, but still definitely worth reading.

You can get Eleanor and Park at your local bookstore today.

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