When Eleanor arrives on the school bus for the first day of her new high school, she is an immediate outcast because she looks awkward, wears shabby clothing, is overweight, has screaming “Red” hair, and isn’t very attractive. With no seats available to sit in, Park offers up a seat next to him before he could stop himself. Park has never really fit in himself because he’s half Korean living in a predominantly white Omaha, Nebraska neighborhood; he loves comics and listens to alternative punk rock. The kids think he’s weird but they do not pick on him because he’s not at the bottom of the social ladder. These two seat buddies pass the days in silence but they subtly and slowly become friendly with one another through Park’s comics, mixtapes, and batteries.
I enjoyed reading Park and Eleanor’s relationship develop in the year of 1986 from distaste to friendship and then to love. It is a very sweet romance with humorous banter, awkwardness, sometimes embarrassment as well as realistic first-love cheesiness.
“You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”
Besides the sweetness, there were also hard to read times of discomfort. For anyone who has ever been made fun of, could probably relate to Eleanor and how horrible high school could be. I liked her ability to mostly ease over all the vicious pranks and tormenting comments from the kids at her school but sometimes she couldn't stop the hurt they caused. On top of all the bullying, her home life wasn't any better with an abusive step-father and poor living conditions. There were times I wanted to cry for her and rip through my Nook to give her a hug. Luckily, we have Park to ease her of her pain and give her reason to continue breathing and look forward to Mondays when she could sit next to him on the bus.
“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." -her voice nearly disappeared- "think I live for you."
This book is written simply but so thoughtfully with so much truth to how life, love and family can be. I really enjoyed the author’s book, Attachments, which was also very sweet but Eleanor and Park now has a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to read more by this author.
“Nothing before you counts," he said. "And I can't even imagine an after."
She shook her head. "Don't."
"Don't talk about after."
"I just meant that... I want to be the last person who ever kisses you, too.... That sounds bad, like a death threat or something. What I'm trying to say is, you're it. This is it for me.”