“She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else.”
I randomly decided to read Eleanor and Park again because I have no chill.
Also, I recently picked up Fangirl (for the tenth time), so that definitely had a weighing hand in whether I should reread more of Rainbow Rowell’s stories. But I don’t have any regrets for rereading this wondrous book.This review contains *spoilers*.
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more is she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book — he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.
It’s really been a while since I last visited Eleanor and Park’s story, I even forgot some things here and there. And I always, always forget Eleanor’s backstory with Richie, which then makes my heart tighten all anew when I reread it.
But let’s start at the beginning: Eleanor and Park sitting next to each other on the bus, not talking, not staring.
Until one day…
“They still didn’t talk on the bus, but it had become a less confrontational silence. Almost friendly. (But not quite.)
Park would have to talk to her today – to tell her that he didn’t have anything to give her. He’d overslept, then forgotten to grab the stack of comics he’d set out for her the night before. He hadn’t even had time to eat breakfast or brush his teeth, which made him self-conscious, knowing he was going to be sitting so close to her.”
‘So,’ he said, before he knew what to say next, ‘you like the Smiths?’ He was careful not to blow his morning breath on her.
She looked up, surprised. Maybe confused. He pointed at her book, where she’d written ‘How Soon Is Now?’ in tall green letters.”
Ahh, I forgot how much I loved these characters, they’re so precious to my heart. Their interactions were so timid (in the best way).
Also, can I just mention their first ever meeting because I’m on cloud nine:
“Before he’d even decided to do it, Park scooted toward the window.
‘Sit down,’ he said. It came out angrily. The girl turned to him, like she couldn’t tell whether he was another jerk or what. ‘Jesus-fuck,’ Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, ‘just sit down.’
The girl sat down. She didn’t say anything – thank God, she didn’t thank him – and she left six inches of space on the seat between them.
Park turned toward the Plexiglas window and waited for a world of suck to hit the fan.”
I love the “Jesus-fuck,” it’s gold.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other.
“You can borrow it,’ he said quietly. ‘Listen to the rest of the tape.’
‘I don’t want to break it,’ she said.
‘You’re not going to break it.’
‘I don’t want to use up the batteries.’
‘I don’t care about the batteries.’
She looked up at him then, in the eye, maybe for the first time ever. Her hair looked even crazier than it had this morning – more frizzy than curly, like she was working on a big red afro. But her eyes were dead serious, cold sober. Any cliché you’ve ever heard used to describe Clint Eastwood, those were Eleanor’s eyes.
‘Really,’ she said. ‘You don’t care.’
‘They’re just batteries,’ he said.
She emptied the batteries and the tape from Park’s Walkman, handed it back to him, then got off the bus without looking back.
God, she was weird.”
God, I love those weirdos.
And their first conversation on the phone always gets to me:
“You can ask me why,’ he said again.
‘Yeah?’ She sniffed.
‘Okay.’ She looked down at the turntable, at her own reflection in the tinted acrylic lid. She looked like a fat-faced ghost. She closed her eyes.
‘Why do you even like me?”
Eleanor’s question punctured me right in the heart. It reminded me of the scene in My Mad Fat Diary (which is set 10 years after Eleanor & Park), where Rae asks Finn something similar.
(Season two was my favorite.)
And not only were the romantic aspects of this book described wonderfully, but the familial relationships astonished me.
I just find it remarkable how Rainbow Rowell can write both incredibly supportive fathers (Fangirl) and incredibly not supportive fathers (Eleanor & Park). I just… How does one make both work so well???
I’ll never forgot Richie’s awfulness. I mean, what kind of next-level creep writes such horrendous things on someone’s books? He’s a bastard. A demon. I hate him.
(Rebecca Bunch knows what’s up.)
So when Eleanor formed a close bond with Park’s family, I truly thanked the stars. I mean, it took Park kicking Steve in the head for Eleanor and the family to really connect, but all was good.
‘I know that your stepdad isn’t an easy man to be around,’ Park’s dad said finally, stepping toward her. ‘And I’m just saying, you know, that if it’s easier to be over here, then you should just be here. That would make Mindy and I feel a lot better, okay?’
‘Okay,’ she said.
‘So this is the last time I’m going to ask you to stay for dinner.’
Eleanor smiled, and he smiled back, and for a second he looked a lot more like Park than Tom Selleck.”
I loved seeing her happy.
And speaking of happy… I completely adored Eleanor and Park’s first kiss (maybe a little too much).Source
‘I’ve never done this before,’ she said.
‘S’okay,’ he said.
‘It’s not, it’s going to be terrible.’
He shook his head. ‘It’s not.’
She shook her head a little more. Just a little. ‘You’re going to regret this,’ she said.
That made him laugh, so he had to wait a second before he kissed her.
It wasn’t terrible. Eleanor’s lips were soft and warm, and he could feel her pulse in her cheek. It was good that she was so nervous – because it forced him not to be. It steadied him to feel her trembling.
He pulled away before he wanted to. He hadn’t done this enough to know how to breathe.
When he pulled away, her eyes were mostly closed. His grandparents had a light on, on their front porch, and Eleanor’s face caught every bit of it. She looked like she should be married to the man in the moon.”
“He pulled her closer and kissed the top her head. He tried to find her ear under all that hair.
‘Come here,’ he said, ‘I want to show you something.’
She laughed. He lifted her chin.
The second time was even less terrible.”
I really loved them getting together…but I didn’t like it when they said stuff like:
‘I don’t want to think about an after.’
‘That’s what I’m saying, maybe there won’t be one.’
‘Of course there will.’ She put her hands on his chest, so that she could push him away if she had to. ‘I mean … God, of course there will. It’s not like we’re going to get married, Park.’
‘Stop.’ She tried to roll her eyes, but it hurt.
‘I’m not proposing,’ he said. ‘I’m just saying … I love you. And I can’t imagine stopping …’
She shook her head. ‘But you’re twelve.’
‘I’m sixteen …’ he said. ‘Bono was fifteen when he met his wife, and Robert Smith was fourteen …’
Ha! That’s what I kept thinking, “but you’re like twelve…” Seriously though, why are you in such a rush???
But a lot went down afterwards that not only broke my heart, it broke all the surrounding area too.
The whole escaping and running away in the middle of the night kept me on the edge till the last page. Rereading those passages made me feel so worried and worn out by the end.
“Somewhere in the house her mother was crying like she was never going to stop.”
I’m… just extremely grateful Eleanor managed to escape without running into Richie the Bastard, but I’m still so worried about her future. And I kept thinking, ‘what about the little kids?? What’s going to happen to them??’
“Fuck. Just … fuck.
She should go back for Maisie.
She should go back for all of them – she should find a way to fit them in her pockets – but she should definitely go back for Maisie. Maisie would run away with Eleanor. She wouldn’t think twice …”
“If Eleanor were the hero of some book, like The Boxcar Children or something, she’d try. If she were Dicey Tillerman, she’d find a way.
She’d be brave and noble, and she’d find a way.
But she wasn’t. Eleanor wasn’t any of those things. She was just trying to get through the night.”
That last sentence is still breaking my heart.
So I was extremely grateful when we got some closure on the kids:
“When he got sick of his bedroom, when there was nothing left in his life that smelled like vanilla – Park walked by Eleanor’s house.
Sometimes the truck was there, sometimes it wasn’t, sometimes the Rottweiler was asleep on the porch. But the broken toys were gone, and there were never any strawberry-blond kids playing in the yard.”
But damn, that ending never fails to hurt me right at my core.
‘Mail call,’ his dad said, almost gently. Park put his hand to his heart.
Eleanor hadn’t written him a letter.
It was a postcard. ‘Greetings from the Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ it said on the front. Park turned it over and recognized her scratchy handwriting. It filled his head with song lyrics.
He sat up. He smiled. Something heavy and winged took off from his chest.
Eleanor hadn’t written him a letter, it was a postcard.
Just three words long.”
Okay, so I’ve had years to think about what my guess is for the three words, and I keep coming back to: ‘I miss you.’
It’s very casual, no strings, no obligations.
What’s your guess for the three words?