Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell (Full review can be found on my blog, Paper Riot.)I've been trying to write down exactly why I loved this book, but it has proven to be impossible. That's why I'm starting this review, not with sentences, but with words. Words in which I try to grasp Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park as carefully as possible. If that's possible. Because this book is simple, yet complicated. Sugar sweet, yet brutally honest. Cute, yet very serious. It's a story of first love, mix tapes, comic books, holding hands, family issues and growing up. It's messy and honest and colorful and imperfect and unlike anything I've ever read.Eleanor and Park are two strangers who meet on the bus and who, though ignoring each other at first, slowly form an unspoken bond consisting of exchanging comic books and mix tapes, which grows into friendship and then into love.What I loved about them is how they aren't your typical fictional characters. Eleanor is a chubby, red-headed girl who wears hand-me-down clothes and is being bullied both in school and at home. Park is a half Korean, quiet kid who gets good grades and doesn't draw too much attention to himself, but who is perfectly fine with that. Park has a pretty nice life, though he has some issues with his dad and struggles with his identity. Eleanor, on the other hand, lives in a house too small for her large family, and has a terrible stepfather.These characters are both set and growing, and I loved reading about them. I also loved how Rowell made me root for Eleanor and Park to stay together. As much as I wanted to "awww" and smile while reading about them, I also appreciated how the story was set to a heavier background and how the characters formed a more serious connection. It caught me completely off guard. In a way, Rowell's writing and characters reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Though Eleanor & Park is lighter, they both share the honest feelings about growing up and characters that are unique in every way.I'm going to stop writing now, since I don't know how I could possibly say anything else that I haven't already said. I don't know what I'd expected from this book, but not this. Eleanor & Park is authentic. It's one of a kind. It will definitely stay with me. But I don't think it's for everyone. If you're not a big contemporary reader, you probably won't like it as much as I did. If you're a fan of strong characters and lots of action and mystery, you probably won't like it either. You may not like it like I did. But I did. I definitely did.