Yet another “NPR Best of…” book. Authored by Rainbow Rowell, this book was set in 1986, which was the year I turned sixteen. Eleanor, the heroine of the novel, was fifteen in the book. She’s at a new school, where she does not fit in, due to her voluptuousness, her curly red hair, and her mismatched, odd clothes. Needing a seat on the bus on the first day, she sits by Park, a half-Korean kid who is on the fringes of the popular crowd, but only because of his past association with Tina, who is dating his friend/neighbor, Steve.
Eleanor’s home life is not great. After a year-long exile, imposed by her stepfather, she is back home with her mother and siblings. And, of course, her stepfather. They have no phone, no money for decent clothes, barely enough food, and no money for batteries, so she cannot even play her Walkman to escape into music. She and Park are about as far apart as two people can be, but something happens, and they each find themselves unable to live without the other.
This book is classified as YA, but there’s a lot of F-bombs in it. (Just a warning). I remember a lot of things about my teenage years, but not cussing like that. This book is great for anyone who has ever felt like they did not fit in, and honestly, wasn’t that at least half of us in high school? I never felt like I fit on, I had more friends than Eleanor, but still felt like I never quite fit in anywhere. This book gives you hope, that no matter what, there’s someone out there who cares, and would give anything to be with you. Even though this book had a serious turn, I do believe I will re-read it someday. As Park himself says in English class, Romeo and Juliet has endured because people want to remember what it is like to be young and in love. This book definitely gives you that.