Eleanor and Park begins with that awkward-new-girl moment when 16 year-old Eleanor steps on the bus and no one will share a seat with her. In an act of pity Park moves his belongings aside. But not until a few rides later when he catches Eleanor reading his comic book over his shoulder does a slow friendship begin to develop.

Besides the bullying Eleanor endures at school she also has a lot to cope with at home. She lives with her mom, four younger siblings and a creepily menacing step-father in a two-bedroom house. Her eccentric outfits have as much to do with a lack of resources as with her fashion choices.

Eleanor’s one bright spot is her friendship with Park. Despite having been born and raised in their suburban Midwestern working-class neighborhood Park occasionally struggles to fit in. His mixed-race heritage as well as his Goth demeanor set him apart.

Told in alternating voices (first Park, then Eleanor) and set in 1986 by debut author Rainbow Rowell these two misfits connect over Honors English, graphic novels and music. Fans of John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) will find a similar combination of adolescent heartache and tender affection.

Eleanor and Park 328 p.

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