So much has been said about romance whether you are a fan of Twilight or Fifty Shades is more your speed. But if you crave a beautiful story about real love between two actual human beings, you must pick up this book. Eleanor and Park are misfits in their own way. Eleanor is big, red headed and lives in poverty with a frightening step-dad and a gaggle of siblings. Park is one of the few Asian kids he knows. He sits alone on the bus in fear of being bullied by kids he may have been friends with in the past. This is why when Eleanor rides the bus to school for the first time that the seat next to him is the only one available. Neither one of them has super powers. Neither one of them is otherworldly attractive. They are just regular teens on a regular school bus. At first the two are weirded out by each other. But Park notices she has The Smiths written on her book. He can’t believe she has never actually heard them. Eleanor has a walk man but can’t afford batteries and tapes. Park decides to make her a mixed tape and give her his batteries. I love that he goes home and empties out all of the devices in his house to find batteries to give to Eleanor. That was the moment I know this was going to be a great story. The two bond over comic books and music. When they hold hands for the first time it is magical and beautifully expressed in Rainbow Rowell’s writing. This is teen love in the days before cell phones, texting and social media. They fall for each other… hard. This is a story of two people who truly care for each other and are willing to do anything to help each other when times become scary. This story is very well written by Rowell in alternating voices. My wish for teen girls… forget Jacob and Edward. Instead fall in love with Park and also August from John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. You will be doing yourselves a favor.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss this passage, “He [Park] knew it was crappy, but he was kind of grateful that people like that girl existed. Because like Steve and Mikey and Tina existed too, and they needed to be fed.” (pg. 14)
What would you do if Eleanor got on your bus? Be honest. Would you offer her a seat?
Talk about poverty and how Eleanor wanted to listen to The Smiths but couldn’t because she didn’t have batteries for her walk man.
Discuss this passage, “Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” (pg. 165)
Discuss how Park still wanted popular girl, Tina, to like him. “He thought he was over caring what people thought about him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He kept finding new ways to betray her.” (pg. 178)
Discuss what Eleanor means when she says her mother won’t leave Richie because she “doesn’t think there’s enough of her left.” (pg. 196)
Discuss when Eleanor says, “There were things worth than selfish.” (pg. 205)
Discuss this passage, “There’s no shame with Park. Nothing is dirty. Because Park is the sun, and that is the best way she could think to explain it.” (pg. 302)
What do you think Eleanor wrote on the post card? Would you have made her same decision?