Eleanor is a chubby new girl with out-of-control red hair and weird clothes. Park is a quiet half-Korean boy who clings to his position at the edge of the cool group. In the normal course of things, they would have no reason to speak to each other. But the first day that Eleanor gets on the bus, she is immediately taunted and ostracized by the other students — and Park surprises himself by letting her sit next to him. Tentatively, Eleanor and Park begin to build a friendship, which gradually deepens into an intense love. But the odds are stacked against them: Park’s parents don’t warm to the prickly Eleanor, and Eleanor’s family life is such a disaster that Park can’t even come to her house. Plus, they’re both smart people and know that high school relationships rarely last forever. Will their relationship be able to survive these obstacles, or will love ultimately tear them apart?
After loving Rowell’s debut novel, Attachments, I naturally had to check out this book too…and happily, it is equally awesome! Both Eleanor and Park are wonderful, likable characters, and it was lovely to see each of them through the other’s eyes. I completely believed in their passionate love for each other, which is unusual for me with teen romance. I tend to scoff at happily-ever-after endings in YA, because very few high school relationships actually work out over the long term. But this book swept me away with its giddy intensity, and I found myself happily rooting for Eleanor and Park to make it. I also really enjoyed the pop culture references that are sprinkled throughout the book; it’s set in the 1980s, so there are many mentions of New Wave and cassette tapes and feathered bangs. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of romance or chick lit, even those who don’t normally read YA.