Why I Love Eleanor & Park

The time I get to spend reading for pleasure is rare and precious—as a mom and a writer I always feel I should be busy doing *something else* but  sometimes, a book comes along so good it cannot be denied, and everything gets ignored: laundry, word counts, dishes, edits. Such was the case with the book, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. In fact, here’s my tweet about the first page:

E&P lived up to page one’s promise. I truly enjoyed this book in a way my writer’s mind rarely allows me to these days: I became invested in the characters and the story and didn’t stop to ponder how strong the plot was, or if there were flaws with character development…my editor’s brain was turned off and my reader’s mind was turned on. That is the best thing I can say about any book, and I can’t say it often. This book gave me the gift of many “happy reader sighs”—you know, those little coos of pleasure when you come across a particularly delicious passage or a an achingly perfect moment. E&P was full of these, and rather than break the whole book down, I’ll simply share some of my favorites:

My favorite Eleanor moments:

Oh, fine, Eleanor thought. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch.

Oh, Eleanor, how I understand this sentiment. The fact that there are cruel people who feed off the misery they cause others, and knowing you are fresh meat—I get it. From the moment Eleanor expresses this self-aware and droll observation, she had me hooked.

I don’t like you Park…I think I live for you.

This girl, who is so afraid of the truth…so afraid to allow herself to feel…she pulls the rug right out from under you with her brutal honesty.

Beautiful. Breathtaking. Like the person in a Greek myth who makes one of the gods stop caring about being a God.

Her description of Park in this moment…wow. Forget the details of eyes and hair and mouth, let me turn on my internal editor for a moment to say that this is deep POV at its best.

Don’t bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It’s disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with the big kisses.

And then, moments later when Park says something perfect and sweet and understanding and RIGHT, she says, “God, it was like he wanted her to eat his face clean off.”  And I smiled, despite the bizarre imagery, and nodded my head in understanding.

Thinking about going out with Park, in public, was kind of like taking your helmet off in space.

See what I mean? It’s lines like that which give me the happy book sigh.

The world rebuilt itself into a better place around him.

This one too. Sigh.

My favorite Park moments:

…because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love?

This was Park’s answer to why Romeo & Juliet has survived over four hundred years…and my former high school English teacher’s soul ate this right up. Yes. And precisely one of the reasons E&P is so amazing as well.

Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly, or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive. … When he touched Eleanor’s hand, he recognized her. He knew.

I spent a decade as a high school speech coach—directing kids in such events as Prose and Verse. If I were coaching now, I’d be all over E&P. This amazing piece of poetry as prose alone could earn a performer the state title, I think.

She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

***Happy Book Sigh Alert***

Eleanor’s face crumpled, and it made him come unhinged. You can be Han Solo, he said, kissing her throat, and I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.

That’s it. I’m done. Book clasped to my chest, tears wiggling their way free. Damn, I love this book.

Do yourself a favor and read Eleanor and Park...though if you need to get any writing or cleaning done—well, you’ve been warned in advance