It’s been a while since I read a YA book that chewed me up the way that this one did. Think John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, or Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel. It’s that powerful. And what was great was what was not there. There were no long pages of exposition explaining why each character was the way they were, no real back story. We get to know Eleanor and Park as they get to know each other. And another thing, with one important exception there are no “bad guys” and “good guys.” The main characters are nuanced, and if we don’t always understand the peripheral characters I got the sense that it’s because Eleanor and Park don’t either.
Eleanor thinks Park’s family is perfect compared to her dysfunctional life. But they’re not, and as she gets to know them she sees the cracks. But just when you think you should hate Park’s dad, he comes through, and big. Even the bully girl turns out to be more than she appears on the surface (not much, but just enough).
This book is unashamedly a love story and it’s a love story that broke my heart. It’s a story of mix tapes and comic books and is conveniently set before cell phones and the internet; the tension these two share when they’re together and when they’re apart is contagious — my heart was often in my throat. The ending may not be dramatic enough for some, but I thought it was fitting.