A book were when you turn the last page, you start writing a sequel in your head.
The two main characters in this book are Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan, with the people around them playing important roles in the development of both the characters as people, and the story itself. Eleanor is faced with having multiple siblings, a mother and a step father. Her father’s character is touched on lightly and it is his decision to not be involved in his children’s lives that resulted in the situation she was forced to live in. Sabrina, Eleanor’s mother was once someone that she looked up to but could not longer respect after she allowed for her stepfather, Richie to kick Eleanor out of the house at age fifteen for an entire year (Rowell, 153). Richie is referred to as a song of a bitch by those that had known him growing up. Eleanor’s siblings influenced how she reacted to things that her stepfather did and also forced her to take on the role of mother and comforter to them when Sabrina and Richie would fight, scaring the children in the night.
Park came from a home that in comparison was much more stable. He had a mother, Min-Dae and a father and one younger brother, Josh. While Park and his father did not always agree on the decisions that Park made, he never felt scared and always knew that when something bad happened he had the option of going to his family for support. This support was transferred to Eleanor as the relationship between she and Park grew, providing her with the feeling of security that she had not felt since she was a young child.
This, among many things is a story about love and what it means in a variety of ways. It’s about the love between a boy and a girl, the love Eleanor gains from her two friends at school DeNice and Beebi (Rowell, 55) and the love that a family can provide not only for their child, but for the child they know is desperate on the inside to feel welcomed and not hated.
The story beings on Eleanor’s first day at a new school when she steps on the bus to see, everyone has claimed their seat and she would be the intruder who changed the system. Park, being raised to be kind and feeling embarrassed for her, tells Eleanor in a gruff manner to sit down. This seating arrangement changed their lives forever. As time went on Eleanor began reading Parks comics over his shoulder until he began giving her comics to take home at night. This act was the beginning of their friendship. Eventually, they began talking to each other, more and more and in hushed tones as to not all on the attention of the school bullies sitting in the back of the bus.
As two teenagers, they did not know where they stood with each other until one day when Steve, a bully was making fun of Eleanor in front of Park and he responded by beating Steve up, and calling her his girlfriend (Rowell, 131). From that day, she realized that he was over (for the most part) being embarrassed by her wardrobe choices, not really knowing why she dressed the way she did—because it is all they could afford.
As Park began opening up to Eleanor, he realized how much she held back. He loved her and wanted her to open up to him but she feared that if he knew about not have a shower curtain and the shower being in her kitchen, the room she shared with her siblings, the excuse of a man that her mother married, their lack of money, that he would not want her anymore. Finally, Eleanor began telling him things, small things that allowed him to see a small part of her life away from him. They spent all their free time together that Eleanor could steal as she had to hide from her mother that she had a boyfriend.
The story becomes dark as Eleanor accepts to herself what kind of person Richie was. His writing in her text books was his way of asking her to enter into a physical relationship with him, and her understanding of Richie was that it would happen either with or without her consent. When she realized this she did the one thing she knew she could always do, she ran to Park. With the help of some characters who decided for once in the story to be kind, Park and Eleanor planned their drive to her uncle on her mother’s side home, far away where she hoped she would be welcome and safe. This was a turning point in Park’s relationship with his father who caught him packing his bag in the early hours of the morning. By helping Park and promising that if things did not work out with her uncle, Eleanor would be safe with them they were able to bond as they had not yet done (Rowell, 296).
This novel takes place in primarily three settings, the bus, Eleanor’s home and Parks home. The bus is vital to the story because without it these characters would not have met or developed the relationship that they did. Eleanor’s home as a setting explained the family dynamics and the environment in which Eleanor was living and why she was the person that she was. Parks home became the safe haven for both of these characters. They were able to be together without fear of being caught by Richie and Sabrina and it gave Eleanor a place that she was always welcome when she needed to be away from her home.
I found this novel to be very emotional. Throughout the story my heart went out to Eleanor for being in such a hard place at a tender age in life. She wanted to take care of her siblings but was not their mother, and she wanted to open herself up to Park’s love but knew there would be consequences if her family found out. The racism in this book is needed in order to show where some of Park’s insecurities come from. It is referenced but it does not over power the story line between the young couple.
The book had a steady pace to it. At times I wished more had gone into the relationship between the two, having more conversations that deepened their connection. Overall it was steady and moved well. The writing from each characters perspective throughout the story allowed for things to move well, and enabled the reader to understand how both sides felt during situations where they were not speaking or were fearful of what they might say. Both Park and Eleanor were fearful at times of saying things that might frighten the offer off from the relationship.
I would give this book 4/5 cups of tea.