I just finished reading Eleanor & Park, devouring it, really. The writing is exquisite, heart wrenching and real. The characters are life-like; deep, dark, intoxicatingly genuine. It’s a love story, but not at all sappy or unoriginal, except perhaps in the way that it reflects the book Stargirl. As in Stargirl, the main character is an awkward, extremely original soul who eventually finds a place in the heart of an unoriginal boy. But where Stargirl was intended for middle grade readers, Eleanor & Park tells the story for a teen audience.
The language, unfortunately, is littered with filth, I’m sure as an attempt to keep things real—these characters are teenagers growing up in the 1980’s, and Eleanor’s stepdad is a horrible drunk—but the language is also part of the story, a way of portraying the true awfulness of Eleanor’s world. Be sure to talk with your teens about this issue before they read it; perhaps after they read it as well. As for sexual situations, Park and Eleanor do “make out”, but do not have sex.
Despite the language, Eleanor & Park is a story of courage, of trust, of two very different people finding common ground, and drawing life from each other. It’s as edifying as it is miserable.
The issues that are tackled are bullying, poverty, young love, fear, insecurity, body issues, uniqueness, fitting in, and acceptance. All important and relevant issues our teens are facing.