In 1986 Omaha, Park is just trying to survive high school, which isn’t easy since he’s only Asian (well, half Asian) kid in his high school. His life gets turned upside down when Eleanor shows up on the bus one day. Eleanor is big (tall and wide), ginger, and has an… unconventional wardrobe. As a result of bus politics, Park is guilted into giving her the other half of his seat and slowly a friendship develops. Matters are complicated by Eleanor’s rough home life and the fact that she feels the need to hide her troubles from Park.
This is Rainbow Rowell’s first YA book and in my opinion, she hits it out of the park. She perfectly captures the anxiety, confusion, and excitement of first love. I especially loved the slow buildup as Park, despite his feelings of awkwardness, woos Eleanor with comic books and good music. Both characters seemed incredibly real. The only criticism of the book I’ve heard is that some didn’t like how focused Eleanor and Park were on their relationship, but they’re 15! And in love for the first time! Of course they’re going to be thinking about the other person all the time.
This book broke my heart and I can’t wait to read her next one.