A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Eleanor & Park is a coming-of-age romance about two high-school misfits in the '80s who meet and fall in love on the school bus. There's strong language and mature themes about poverty, domestic abuse, and emotional/financial instability. The central characters explore the challenges of being "different" (in Park's case, because he's half-Korean, in Eleanor's because of her looks and family) but also the joy of falling in love for the first time. Popular culture from the '80s is regularly discussed, and the protagonists share everything from holding hands to nearly having sex.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A morning bus ride changes everything for Park Sheridan. He's minding his own business until a new girl -- a crazily dressed redhead with a scowl -- gets on and has nowhere to sit. Fearing the worst for her, he angrily swears at Eleanor to sit next to him, and despite the six inches of space she leaves between them, it's the start of something really special. Park is a sensitive half-Korean guy whose parents are still in love with each other, while Eleanor is an intelligent but often ridiculed girl from a poor, broken family. But every day, Eleanor and Park's seating arrangement leads to silently reading comics together, then talking about music, and eventually sharing a deep and abiding friendship that becomes an unforgettable first love.
Is it any good?
Author Rainbow Rowell touchingly explores the overwhelming nature of first love -- the kind of love that feels as if it can last a lifetime, that can help heal wounds and open doors. Eleanor and Park are both misfits in their Omaha high school, but they see the best and the beautiful in each other. Their passionate conversations and debates -- about everything from the role of women in comic books (Eleanor says they're too passive, Park disagrees) to the opening measures of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" or the short-sightedness of Romeo and Juliet -- lays the foundation for a believable and poignant love story.
This is a fabulous book for mothers (especially those who grew up in the '80s!) to read along with their teen daughters. Not only will it spur substantive discussions, but it also will allow mothers to share their own perspectives on what and who they loved in high school. With witty dialogue and pitch-perfect descriptions of teen life in the mid-'80s, this is a story that will make your heart ache and then make it sing. If only every girl could meet a boy like Park, who, as Eleanor says, is not a boyfriend but a "champion." Forget the dazzling vampires who don't exist, girls, and find yourself the awesome boy on the bus -- the one who sees you not for how you dress but who you are.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Eleanor and Park's romance, which is not fluffy and sweet but intense and life-changing. What does Eleanor mean when she says, "The me that's me right now will be his, always"? What do you think of their relationship's chances of survival?
What do you think of the author Rainbow Rowell's depiction of the '80s? Do Eleanor and Park's conversations about music and comic books make you interested in the artists or works they discuss? How do the pop-cultural references add to their characters?
How do the adults in Eleanor's and Park's lives affect the way they approach their relationship? Do Park's parents and grandparents make him more open to "love" than Eleanor's divorced and dysfunctional parents?
- Author: Rainbow Rowell
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, High School, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press
- Publication date: February 26, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance and the '80s
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.