After all the hype about Eleanor and Park on several booktube channels I follow, my expectations were sky high - I was expecting a realistic romance, likable characters, real-life problems etc. Thankfully all of my expectations were filled.
The setting is 1986. High school. Eleanor and Park meet in a school bus. Eleanor is the new girl - awkward clothes, bright red hair, fat. Park is the half-Korean guy who just wants to blend into the crowd. At first Park does not now how to react to Eleanor. Other kids in the bus start to make fun of her, but for some reason Park cannot get past the fact that he should have said something to her. Once he realizes that she is reading the comics Park reads, he starts to bring her comics. First they do not speak, but once they start, it seems that they cannot stop.
I LOVED both Eleanor and Park. I really felt for Eleanor - her stepfather is probably the biggest asshole known to man. The house she lives in does not have a bathroom door and she has to share her room with all of her siblings. And since there is no money, she has to make due with the torn down clothes etc. her mother has given her. So no wonder other people think she wears weird clothes. She also describes herself as fat (other people call her "Big Red") which I found refreshing because usually the young adult female protagonists are described as "small, thin, petite" etc. This was just a nice change because I feel like I was able to identify with Eleanor in the sense that I am not "small, thin or petite" either. Park is charming, funny and totally the type of guy I would have liked in high school. He sometimes feels like he is in the shadow of his younger brother. He is not very confident and at the beginning he is humanly selfish - he is not sure what it will do to him if people start to see him around Eleanor who everyone has started teasing. But as he sees more and more of her, he realizes that what other people think does not really matter if he is not happy himself. And Eleanor makes him happy.
Many young adult novels rely on instalove, on some higher force that "forces" the couple together. Eleanor and Park realizes on chemistry, on getting to know someone before falling in love. I really loved how realistic the story was - Eleanor's problems and Park's family life make it seem like something that could definitely happen. I especially found Park's mother hilarious.
I know the ending of the story is not for everyone - I personally too felt like I wanted more - but now that I am writing this a couple of days later, I am happy it ended the way it did. I am not going to say more about that in order not to ruin the story, but I just want to say that you really should read this one. It has deserved all the hype it has gained among the readers.