I love Rainbow Rowell’s characters. Even when we aren’t meant to like, or agree with them, she manages to fully flesh them out in a way that at the very least makes them relatable. Which, to me, is something to aspire to as a writer. I can only hope that the characters I scribble can someday become so fully fleshed out.
The two main characters, as the title suggests, are Eleanor and Park. Eleanor is the new girl in town. She moves back in with her mother and stepfather after a year’s separation from them in which she lived with friends of the family, her mother has convinced her stepfather to let her return to the family. While having to navigate rebuilding relationships with her younger siblings, she also must navigate a new high school filled with people who – in the way of high school – are always looking to attack the new and different.
Which brings us to Park. He is different. He is different from his brother, from his parents, and from the other kids at school. But he grew up in the neighborhood and he and his Korean mom, whom his dad met while deployed in the military, are fixtures now and everyone has become accustomed to his family. He has perfected the level of friendship and interactions which allow him to fly mostly under the radar. Until Eleanor gets on the bus and the only open seat is next to him.
This is a YA book, and our protagonists go through a pretty typical high school plot line. But, there’s more depth to Eleanor and Park, and to their lives, than you might expect. Unless, of course, you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s work before.