Feb 4 2013 5:00pm

First Look: Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (February 26, 2013)

Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park
St. Martin's Press / February 26, 2013 / $18.99 print, $9.99 digital

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.

So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be, she says, we’re 16.

What about Romeo and Juliet?

Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.

Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

True story: After reading Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, I immediately went in search of any previous books by Rowell (Attachments) and details for her next book, Fangirl (out later this year). This book triggered the urge to glom, majorly, not to mention the urge to list it as one of my top 3 favorite books of 2012. So what did it?

The long and the short of it has to be Rowell's way with the characters, especially her misfit teenage protagonists, Eleanor and—you guessed it—Park. The story is told from the perspective of both characters in alternating viewpoints, allowing you to slowly get inside their heads, falling for them individually before they fall for each other and then rooting like hell for them when they do.

Perfectly imperfect, Eleanor and Park deal with some pretty heavy issues, including abuse and low self-confidence, that readers can relate whether they remember the '80s or not—though if you do, you'll definitely get a kick out of the pop culture references. These characters will break your heart, pretty much. But luckily they find a safe harbor in each other, and it’s a true pleasure to see them go from a very awkward, if realistic, first acquaintance:

“Park couldn’t think of a way to get rid of her on the bus. Or a way to get rid of himself. So he put his headphones on before the girl sat down and turned the volume all the way up.

"Thank God she didn’t try to talk to him.”

To a relationship they never could have expected:

“I’m just saying...I love you. and I can’t imagine stopping....”

It's definitely all about the journey with this story. Eleanor & Park is sweet and incredibly romantic, and the characters will stick with you long after the story is done.

Heather Waters, a 24/7 fangirl, co-manages H&H. Tweet her @redline_

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