Following our “romance” theme for February book club, I was encouraged to read Eleanor and Park. Although romance is not my favourite genre, this was a heartwarming story of young love despite many challenges that some teens face. It was easy to read and had me reminiscing about many of the 1980’s references.
Eleanor is the new girl. She struggles from the moment she steps on the school bus and no one gives her a seat – no one, until Park. Park, the quiet boy who felt different due to his mother’s Korean heritage. Eleanor is a sight with her wild red hair and her unique clothing choices but the two slowly get to know one and other, starting with Park sharing his seat, then sharing his comic books, his walkman (a history lesson in technology for the YA crowd) and then his feelings.
Park is the bright light in Eleanor’s existence while she lives in a house with an abusive (and scary) step-father, a mother too caught up in the drama to help her and younger siblings. She tries to stay out of his way, reading in her room and losing herself in the mixed tapes that Park made for her. Eleanor often sneaks to Park’s house after school and she sees the vast difference between her own family life and Park’s.
With all the 80s references, I was curious about the author – she is 42 years old so grew up with The Smith’s, the Karate Kid, The A-Team, MTV and Magnum PI. She even mentioned Judy Blume, one of my favourite authors and had many other musical and television shows that were popular in my teenage years were referenced. While the novel was written for young adults, I can’t help but think the secondary audience was the parents of the YA audience who would reflect on their teens and the 80s culture that provided the setting. It is a sweet and quick book to read if you are looking for something light!
“She’d never expected to have a love scene straight-out of a Judy Blume book”