Again with the teen drama stories! Seriously though, I love them!
I have been eying this book for a long time and finally was able to get my hands on a copy at the library. I have heard and read many good things about the book and the author, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was not disappointed! I burned through this book in a day, which for me is pretty rare, but I just couldn’t put it down!
Eleanor and Park meet on her first day of high school in 1986, where she gets on the bus and has nowhere to sit. Park finally tells her to sit beside him, and ignores her for the rest of the ride to school. Park thinks she is weird, she dresses weird and smells like cake. She thinks he is equally weird, and each dread sitting beside each other on the bus daily. Eventually, they start to warm up to each other, and we as readers get to watch their love bloom over comic books and music!
I really loved reading about the character Eleanor. Like me, she is a bigger girl with curly red hair, and I seem to have the same temperament and mental thought processes as her. Sadly, she lives in poverty, with her mom, stepfather, and her three younger siblings. They all live in a small house that doesn’t even have a bathroom door, and she shares a room with all of the children, most of whom sleep on the floor. Her stepfather is verbally abusive, and physically abusive to the mother, and the children have all learned how to do things silently, how to be as small as possible, in hopes of keeping his rage at bay. The mother seems totally checked out, only interested in keeping her husband calm. Eleanor feels forced to keep secrets from her mother, for her sake and her safety, and she is constantly worried about what would happen if her stepfather kicks her out again. Eleanor is often bullied on the bus and at school. Her clothes are different (she makes due with what they find at goodwill), and due to her size and hair colour, she is often called Big Red.
Parks family is in totally contrast to Eleanor’s. His parents are loving and affectionate towards each other. They live next door to Park’s grandparents, having weekly dinners with them. The whole family is involved with each other, and all show genuine care towards Park and his brother. His parents are leery of Park being around Eleanor. They have heard about Big Red, and her step father, and feel it is not a good idea for him to be around her. They too though begin to see the good qualities Eleanor has, and how happy their son is with her, and she spends a great deal of time with his family.
Reading about teenagers in this book made me relive being in high school. The structural hierarchy of teenagers, how fun and friendly they can be, how cruel and hurtful they can be. There is always that one teacher that really gets you, and always that one that just wants you to be like everyone else. The counselors that always want to be helpful in any situation and help you navigate your way through the world.
The book also reminded me so much about falling in love with my fiancé. How something as simple as holding hands felt so magical in the beginning. How you live for each other and want to be together constantly.
It was heartbreaking for me to read about Eleanor’s lack of relationship with her mother. My mom is one of my best friends, and I tell her almost anything. I couldn’t imagine having to hide your entire existence from your own mother. Not being able to tell her about new friends or first boyfriend, it sounds so exhausting and terrifyingly lonely.
I am so glad I finally got to read this book and see just how wonderful it is. The writing was excellent, and I love when I get to read a book where I get so invested in the characters, where I feel what they feel. I love Eleanor and being able to relate so much to her. I love the love story. I love it all! Go read it! Seriously!