Eleanor & Park (Discussion)

Eleanor and ParkHappy Saturday, everyone! Can you believe the month is already over?! I feel like February absolutely flew by for me (in a  good way). I actually didn't get around to starting the book club book until late last week. I was nervous I wouldn't make it through the whole thing before today because I'm often a fairly slow reader/don't have tons of time to read every week. But, Eleanor & Park turned out to be such a fun, quick read that I blew through it all during two long flights this week. Did you think it was a fast read too?

Before I share any of my thoughts on this book, I do want to warn: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! So if you haven't finished the book yet, I'd hold off as I'd hate to ruin it for you. 🙂

These are just a few of my thoughts. Feel free to use these as jumping off points for our discussion, or you can start talking about something totally different that you thought about while reading. 


I feel super conflicted about it. I think my gut reaction was a mix of disappointment and slight confusion. I feel like it's fair to assume that those three words in Eleanor's postcard to Park are, "I love you", but I also think it's vague enough that I didn't feel entirely confident assuming this. So, although it is a happy ending in that Eleanor is safe, it sort of felt a little anticlimactic to me. Not that I necessarily think the book would be better had it ended in a wedding, that didn't seem likely to happen. But it also talks about Romeo and Juliet throughout the story, so I wondered if Rowell would at least leave us with some big final ending. But, maybe that's the point a little bit? What did you think?

2. Eleanor's family situation

For me, it's easy to forget that there are lots of people who grow up in very different family situations than myself. I identified more with Park's family. My parents love each other and love their children. I've always known my parents loved me even if they didn't agree with choices I was making growing up. We had regular teenager problems, but my parents were nothing short of awesome and supportive through it all. We ate dinner together. They taught me to drive a car and took me to get my license. All the "normal" stuff. But it's not normal for everyone. Park experiences this when he is faced with the realties of Eleanor's family. I had a very good friend in high school who grew up in an abusive family. Like Eleanor, she was often in danger but felt trapped because when you're a "kid" with no money, no car, and no one to listen to you, it's hard to get help. So many things that happened to Eleanor throughout the book reminded me of this friend and things she dealt with. I wish no child had to live through situations like that. It's completely unfair. It reminded me that I need to make sure to take opportunities to help others when they come up (and I should probably make them come up more). Sometimes there are opportunities through my church or other organizations, and I should do what I can to help instead of just thinking about it or assuming everyone else is helping so I don't need to.

3. Love is larger than the sum of its parts

Probably one of my favorite things from this book is how Rowell, in my opinion, does a fantastic job of showing how love is always more than the sum of its parts. Like, if you try to break down why you fall in love with someone, it never adds up, right? It doesn't entirely make sense. Watching Eleanor and Park go from two strangers on a school bus who are forced to sit near each other to falling in love and having to be separated by very adult circumstances was sort of amazing. It felt totally natural as you read, but sitting back and thinking how they fall in love, it almost seems too simple or doesn't quite add up. In my experience, that's actually what love is like. It's often awkward and inconvenient, but also inescapable when the real thing comes your way. 

If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book. So glad we read it this month! I will for sure be picking up Rowell's other book sometime soon. Hope you enjoyed the read this month too. And don't forget, next month we're reading, All The Light We Cannot See, so be sure to pick up or check out your copy soon. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • I loved this book so much. The characters were great and well developed. I couldn’t stop reading. The ending caught me by surprise though. I kinda expected them to see each other again before they left. Instead he went to prom with another girl. I hated that!!!! The postcard thing really confused me, and I thought about it. I think the 3 words could be
    1. I love you
    2. I’m coming home
    3. I miss you
    4. Meet me ———
    I personally hope it was I’m coming home, but I can’t be sure.

  • I like everything about this book except the ending part. I don’t think park should bring cat to prom night & kiss her. The ending kinda disappointing to me ????

  • Hi Marie! We are taking a little break from the book club. -Jacki

  • Hello, I was just wondering when you will be posting the book selection for April?

  • I thought this was a quick, enjoyable read. My first thought about the three words on the postcard were “I love you,” but the more I thought about it, I think “I miss you” makes the most sense. That phrase was used almost in excess between Eleanor and Park. After months of no contact, I think those simple words would bring Park out of his dark place, and reestablish their friendship, with or without their former romance.

  • I was lucky that my library had multiple copies of this book, so I was able to read it right at the beginning of February, however I read it in about two days! So I have forgotten a few things by now. For me the book hit a little too close to home to be a comfortable read at times, reading almost like a satire to me. It was written exceptionally well and I enjoyed it for the most part considering.

    1) I liked the ending up until when he received the postcard from her, when I was younger i might have needed that ‘closure’ but as an adult i find it kind of cheesy. I don’t know, maybe that’s the wrong word, but I didn’t find it to be as realistic as the rest of the book read.

    2) I found Eleanor’s situation uncomfortably close to my experience’s as a teenager in a ‘broken home’ so-to-speak. I read most often at night when i’m around my boyfriend and i kept stopping and saying to him “wow, that’s similar to when … happened” and not until i read this book wasn’t i actually aware of how crazy up some of what I experienced was and still is living with family still in that situation. Coming from a similar setting I have to say when you’re in it, you don’t really think about how other family’s perform, and it does taint your perception of the family dynamic. So I really understood Eleanor’s initial feeling of being uncomfortable around Park’s family, but also I completely get why eleanor just get’s on with it and doesn’t complain, like Eleanor I just figured that I would eventually leave and that what the undesirable doesn’t know doesn’t concern him anyway.

    3) My boyfriend is amazing and I love him and we fell weirdly and madly in love at the beginning in the strangest of circumstances and I could never explain all the reason’s i fell and why I still do love him. This is true beyond anything

  • Hello everyone!

    I LOVED this book. I seriously couldn’t put it down. I finished it in less than 24 hours. I have always been a fast reader, but this book had me hooked. I think the author did a fantastic job portraying the love story between Eleanor and Park. Its high school. Things happen a little differently during that time. Everything seems a little more like a fairy tale. Honestly, it reminded me of a relationship I had in high school. It seemed real which can be hard to achieve. I commend the author.

    I must say, the ending killed me. I was hoping things would resolve at least to a certain extent. I can only assume the three words were “I love you” but I am still left with so many questions!

  • I came from a home more like Eleanor’s although I never had a wicked step dad, just more a home that I didn’t want to bring friends into. I identified a lot with Eleanor and really enjoyed reading about the two of them falling for each other. I love how it started out sweet and mostly silent and how they got to know each other through music and comics first. I loved the tension Rainbow created and how devoted they became to each other. I also loved Park’s honesty about his shortcomings. When his mother discovered Eleanor’s family life and how she responded, it just broke my heart. I couldn’t stop crying about it for some reason. I loved how his family came to embrace her and wish that all kids who come from a tough home find someone or a family that will love them they way they deserve to be loved. The ending broke my heart and I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t respond to his letters and tapes. It just didn’t make sense to me. But then in the end, she couldn’t resist. I so wonder what will happen to them now.

    I also LOVED the scene where he discovers her in her gym suit and the fact that she was completely horrified while he was mesmerized and couldn’t stop thinking about her and “that zipper”. I thought the love scenes were so sweet and intense and wanting, I could imagine all the emotions they were feeling about each other. What is it about first loves? They are so intense and wonderful and stay with you forever.

    I like to imagine Eleanor and Park finding their way back to each other in college and would love to read the sequel although it would be a totally different story. I don’t worry too much abut the other kids because it sounds like they all moved out of the stepfather’s house and I imagine her uncle is helping them out.

    About the counselor, I think it’s really tough to help someone who won’t ask for help. It’s a fine line and as much as the counselor probably wanted to do, until Eleanor asked for help, she couldn’t receive it. She needed to save herself. Plus I’m sure Eleanor’s mom would refuse any help offered. Even at the end, I bet she left because of an ultimatum she couldn’t refuse rather than a desire to get out of the situation she was in. Coming from an abusive background, I sort of understand why someone stays in dysfunction. She didn’t believe she deserved more and probably couldn’t even imagine what that would look like. Even when she got it, she would never feel worthy.

    Anyway, I thought it was a wonderful book and am so glad I read it. Now I am tearing my way through a ton of young adult novels. I can’t stop! I already have the next book on Audible and am looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the wonderful recommendation!

  • I agree i wanted to know more and what happened to her family


  • The love between Eleanor and Park reminded my of my teenage loves and all the tingle and butterflies. I love the way Rowell describes the young love – so real and exciting.

    But the big topic in the book for my was the abuse and the violence in the family. Like you and Elsie I have grown up in a family full of love and support and with a very strong bond among 4 of us (I also have a sister). And I also do not have friends or classmates in abusive families (or at least I don’t know for such). But I know this is a big issue and there are a lot of children and women who suffer in their families and I think even the biggest problem is that most of them don’t realize the problem or do not want to realize it. That is the reason to find this book so important – because I believe the victims of abuse could see the problem better trough someone else’s eyes. This is my main reason to recommend the book everywhere with the hope it will land in the right hands.

    And for the three words – what about “Nothing ever ends” from the Watchmen comic book. I think they fit perfectly. 🙂

    A lot of greetings from Bulgaria! xo. Jeni

  • I thought this book was a pretty decent read. A little angsty, but I guess thats to be expected from a Ya love story. I really identified with Eleanor and found myself flying through the pages to find out how it turns out for her. Funny though, I thought the three words were I miss you. I thought the bit about her looking over all of the unopened mail and wondering if they could start over lead to her sending an I miss you postcard. The thought of all that unopened mail still feels kind of haunting. I’d love if they made a sequel that was just all of the mail Park sent!

  • I read this book quite some time ago, and I love it. As you stated, I was brought up much more like Park, I have a loving family and they are supportive and quirky and I never had to deal with the ugly world of feeling like I was in danger. I did however relate to Elanore so deeply in that she felt like a misfit, and for me the most powerful part of the book was when Park’s mother gave Elanore her makeover and everyone fussed over her but to her it felt alien. I had almost the exact same experience and that moment still sticks with me.

    I too loved the way Rowell showed love. It’s not perfect and it comes together weird and there’s fun and awkward and confusing and everything all rolled into one, especially as a teen; very well done.

  • I’m so glad that I stumbled across this. I love the idea of a virtual book club.

  • Thank you for selecting this book for february, I really enjoyed reading it!

    I agree with you about the ending – I just wished, it would have taken a couple of pages more to give the story the perfect ending that it deserves. Not in a happily-ever-after-way but the story between Park and Eleanor was so carefully built up, you could almost fall for Eleanor / Park as well as the characters. I felt like every word was chosen so carefully to describe the relationships between all of the characters, it’s just sad that you are left with almost nothing in the end. Sure, I understand that Rowell maybe didn’t want to go into one specific direction but it ends too aprupt for my liking.

    I could relate a lot with Eleanor. When I was a teenager my mom used to date that kind of loser Richie is. He wasn’t abusive but I could relate a lot to Eleanor about feeling helpless and invisible to her mother.

    This book is still very precious to me and I will surely read it again!

  • I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to read this one, as it was the first YA book I’ve read since I was a YA… but I was really blown away by the subtleties and complexities in this story. I thought Rowell used such great language when describing Park’s and Eleanor’s thoughts… they were grown-up thoughts and topics, to be sure, but viewed through the somewhat short-sighted, naive eyes of a young adult really straddling the world between being a child and full-blown adult. This really resonated with me as a gal in my early thirties just starting to look toward buying a house, having kids, etc – I feel like I’m in another ‘straddling two worlds’ moment in life, and it’s refreshing to be reminded that we’re never quite as ‘grown up’ as we think we are. And that’s okay.

    As for the ending… I went through about a zillion different three word sentences. “I love you” and “Park, just stop” were the first contenders, but then I started thinking about “see you soon” or “until next time”, and decided I liked those best. I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty of it!

    Overall, I really liked this book. While I don’t think I’ll become an avid YA reader anytime soon, I definitely wouldn’t turn my nose up at a book anymore just because it’s in the YA section. Thanks for broadening my horizons, Emma! 🙂

  • I was surprised by how much I liked this book. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it due to such a vast age difference between myself and the characters, but it was so well written. It’s not really a happy story and I appreciated that most. I kind of assumed the three words in the end are “I love you,” but due to distance and the age of the characters I didn’t find myself believing it would go on beyond that final page.

  • I (kinda, sorta) cheated and listened to the unabridged audiobook of Eleanor and Park at work. I am blessed to have a job that lets me listen to books and music all day, so no complaining from me. But, by the end of Eleanor and Park I was a crying mess. I thought Eleanor and Park’s relationship was incredibly realistic. I found myself irritated with Eleanor when she would pull away from Park, but it was entirely aligned with the way she was being treated at home. She couldn’t handle emotions like happiness and hope, when all she had at home was fear and anger. I was also furious with Eleanor’s parents. Her mother refused to save herself or her children from the situation they were in. However, this is a great example of how people and even your own parents can let you down and are not always strong enough to do the right thing.

  • What if it says “I’m Hans Solo” ?
    That could be a really sweet ending since they argued about who was the “Hans Solo” in the relationship.

  • I haven’t read a teen story/romance in such a long time that this definitely brought me back to that anticipatory feeling of first loves. It almost made me look at my boyfriend in a different way, like, HEY YOU LET’S BE FIRST LOVES AGAIN.

    I also assume that she wrote ‘I Love You’. I kind of do like that it was left open. It’s a small book, it shouldn’t be cut and dried. I think it’s fine to guess at what becomes of Eleanor and Park.

    I really really liked that Park was half Korean and that it dealt with a slight interracial relationship. My boyfriend is actually Korean and about a year ago I moved in with him and his family. The way Park’s mother is written is very true to life and definitely reminds me of my boyfriends mom…in fact a little too much! I wonder if the author is Korean or has ties to Korean families.

    Just put the next months book on hold at the library!


  • I absolutely loved this book. But there’s just one little thing I would love to stand out.
    You mentioned in your post about the family situations and how different things were for Park and Eleanor. I love the fact that at the end Park opened up to his dad when there was a critical moment, even though they weren’t so close to each other. I just love that after their talk his dad didn’t solve the problem for him, he just trusted in his son to do the right thing and supported him. I’m not really sure I would do that as a parent of a 17 year old, but that part of the ending was really nice.
    It would be so cool to have a movie of the book! 😀
    Thanks for your insight this month!

  • For me the book was like high school all over again. I felt these things, had those awkward moments of tongue-tied idiocy that hormones brings and I experienced the alienation that Eleanor felt (not that I was abused but I was forced into a new school system for high school). It had all the feelings of being a teenager for me.

    I think the ending is like a poem. Each poem written is interpreted by each reader. Where one sees love another could see hate. It gives the reader a chance to make the ending what they believe the characters will fill, a sort of relating that isn’t possible if it’s already written for us. I wanted a happy ending, they deserved that happy ending, so that’s what I gave them.

    I have to say that this is my first book club to ever participate in, I read such a wide range of things and I’m a fast reader that I find it hard to remember the books by the end of the month. I really enjoyed this and I fully plan to read the next book as well!

  • I absolutely LOVED this book. I didn’t read it this month, but last year and i ended up reading it cover-to-cover in a day! It was such a fun/easy read, that made me both laugh and cry.

    I’ve been doing the 2015 Reading Challenge from Pinterest and now i’m really considering adding some of Rowell’s other books to my list ;)!

  • I was so annoyed by the ending!! What did the postcard say??? Gah!!

    Was it I love you? Was it something else … Maybe I miss you? I forgive you? I hate not knowing but at the same time it really makes the story that extra bit special.

    I really enjoyed the story though, the different family relationships and how they affected their relationship was relatable and I found myself falling deeper into the story.

    I’d highly recommend it to others to read!

  • I loved this book even though it made me tear up a few times. I’m surprised no one has brought up the issue of bullying which was just as devastating as her home life. The relentlessness of it was heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine the courage it takes to face that every day. At least she had somewhat of a buffer at home with her mom albeit a weak one but enough to keep her safe from serious physical harm. I immediately suspected her stepdad for writing the notes. He hated Eleanor because she was the only one he was unable to manipulate. She knew his game and true identity. The strength of her character shined through when she gave her Christmas money to her mom. Although Eleanor desperately needed that money, she gave it to someone who needed it more. I have no doubt Eleanor’s life will have a happy ending!

  • I loved this book! I really enjoyed the juxtaposed family situations, and the language Rowell used to describe how they felt about each other was just beautifully, tenderly written. I was okay with the ending, even though it felt brief to me. It left me hopeful that they would meet again soon.

  • I adored this book!!! I brought it without thinking twice back during summer 14′.. I totally agree with all your comments. The ending was a little incomplete but none the less, I think I was the best it could of ending considering Eleanor’s family! I hope they will make a movie or even a part 2 of the Book where they meet again after college or somthing!! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed the book! I love that Park’s parents came around and backed their relationship as well as helped Eleanor get to a safe place :

  • How crazy! I bought this book recently but haven’t read it yet, I’ll definitely have to start!
    -Lauren, http://fineandflawed.blogspot.com

  • I read this book last year and absolutely loved it! I think I’m one of the few people that really appreciated the ending of this book. Rainbow Rowell has mentioned that she didn’t think teenagers were supposed to have happy endings. And I completely agree! They are so young and have extraordinary lives ahead of them! We’re supposed to be left guessing about the amazing things that are yet to come. 🙂

  • I read it in two days and really liked it!
    I loved Park and all of his young teenager doubts, and really like the way the author develop their relationship: innocent, quirky, step by step. Nothing too soon or too much for their ages.
    I liked the end too, and that although Park did all the possible to help Eleanor, it was nothing overrated for his age, as it usually happens when writing fiction with teens: he acted like he was supposed to act for a guy in his age.

  • I read this book last year and loved it. I have read 4 of her books since then.
    I think what I love the most is that she doesn’t put drama in where there doesn’t need to be any. Most “teen” books add drama that make you think there’s a breakup for a petty reason and you know it’s going to resolve by the end. I love that she doesn’t do that. She really makes you LOVE her characters and mourn when they’re not in your life anymore.
    I love the diversity of her characters. I, like you, grew up in a very loving home. Reading about Eleanor’s life, so bluntly laid out on the pages and accepted by E because that’s “just life” is always hard to swallow. But Park’s love for her, because of who she is and not out of pity, is just so beautiful.
    The ending was hard, but I also feel like a lot of books end with a pretty bow all tied up, and it kind of ruins it? It kind of makes you feel like you just ended a book with a bowl of candy, too sweet and perfect. But that’s not real life and I like that she wants you to feel like her books are real life. I can believe whatever I want to believe about what happens next.

  • We read this a few months ago as our first book for Book Club. To date it is the only book that we have all enjoyed. We were a bit apprehensive at first with it being a YA novel, but I really did fall in love with it. I did want to shout at Eleanor though for not sticking up for her mum and siblings more. I liked that the ending left you guessing a bit. It’s better than having your stereotypical, and slightly predictable, normal “happy ending”.

  • I really, really enjoyed this book. I think it totally captures “teenage love”–how it sneaks up one you and then it seems all emcompassing. I remember those days ;). The story was also so heartbreaking. I think I read through most of the book on edge because I was so nervouse as to what was going to happen to Eleanor and at the same time I was so angry for the horrible situation Eleanor was in. Great book.

  • I love that this book doesn’t have a warm-fuzzy, romantic ending because isn’t that reality with most high school relationships anyway?? And yet, we are always hopeful first loves will work out. Always rooting for that Romeo and Juliet type romance (without the double suicide, of course).

    I also felt that the ending was happy in a way. The best possible ending for Eleanor is that she get out of that situation and be somewhere safe. I imagine those 3 words to be “I am safe”, which would make Park smile and feel better about letting her go.

  • I love this book! I find myself crying several times while reading this, I don’t know if it’s the book or i just have a soft heart. hahaha. This book is different from other YA books, it’s very realistic.


  • This book was so amazing in the way it told a story about a young and natural love. It was oddly like my first real love story. I sat on the bus with my first boyfriend and we fell in love over music and Kurt Vonnegut. His life situation was more like Eleanor’s though. I found myself crying periodically throughout the book because it just hit so close to home. Anyways, I loved the ending. I have no doubt that the postcard was written with, “I love you”. I don’t think it needed a super dramatic ending. That’s not how most relationships end….you know like Romeo and Juliet.

    And isn’t it interesting how people fall in love? It really makes no sense, but I do believe that you have to be open to it in a way that makes you a bit vulnerable. If you always have your heart on defense, how can you fall in love? This is why I loved Eleanor’s character so much. She had that vulnerability. And she had hope.

  • I did not read the book yet, but I think I will have a look 🙂



  • I felt so conflicted about the book. It left me feeling both sad and hopeful. I was heartbroken because it hit me that Eleanor’s life and family situation is a reality for so many children. I had the privilege of growing up in a loving and supportive family and I realized how much I took that for granted.

    At the same time, I liked the ending. At first I felt like I had been robbed of the romanticized ending that I had fantasized about, but now I can appreciate the reality of it. I think I need to go and read Fangirl now…

  • i still dont know how i feel about this book.
    i did like it but i dont know. i didnt drive me crazy.
    i think my thing is, the whole eleanors family situation bugged me.
    i mean, of course it was a huge part of the story and the reason for how she was but its like, we dont know what happens to her siblings or her mother or richie.
    i know thats not what the story was about but thats just me being difficult about it.
    but i will say that i did like that eleanor, given the circumstances, is a positive person where they could have easily made her be a character that hated life and was a total mess.
    (and im not even going to lie, part of me WANTS to know what happens to the grown up versions of E & P!)

    i just finished all the bright things. i DEFINITELY recommend that book.
    it deals with a heavy subject but i think she did a really good job with it specially since she’s close with the subject.

    i also posted a review on my blog about E&P
    but its nowhere as sophisticated as yours. 😉
    it was fun joining you guys this month!

  • I need to get my hands on this book, it looks like such a good read!!

  • I have also read “Landline” and “Attachments” by Rowell and I preferred both to E&P. So I definitely recommend her other books.

  • This was the first book by Rowell that I read. I loved it so I read Attachments and just finished Fangirl. Both have endings that kinda leave you hanging, but feeling satisfied at the same time.

  • Right? At first I sort of wondered if it said, “Park, just stop.” Like she mentions earlier that she considering writing to him. But based on his reaction to the postcard I think you sort of have to assume it’s positive in some way.


  • You don’t have to feel bad! Having a different opinion is good, makes discussions (and life in general) way more fun. 🙂


  • Alright a movie version! I’ll be taking Trey to that for sure. Made him see TFIOS with me this past year. Sort of fun hearing what someone thinks of a movie made from a book when they haven’t read the book.



  • I loved this book so much! I also read The Attachments and Rainbow Rowell just knows how to make you feel the feels of falling in love. I laughed, I cried. I have not been so into a story of young love since Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano – when I was young myself – and this was so much better because PARK. Park would never write a song about a car!

    The quirky characters, the MUSIC, Park’s imperfect yet amazing parents, the eyeliner thing, all of it.

    The only thing I hated was the sleeping in the truck – really, Eleanor? 🙂

    Can’t wait to see the movie! Rainbow Rowell is my new favorite author! Great choice.

  • Rainbow Rowell is a master in my eyes of creating these characters that you want to live with more much longer than you’re allowed. I was wrecked by Eleanor’s story and was so rooting for that classic happy ending. But, that’s not how real life works and Rowell’s writing is as real as they come.

  • I am so excited you chose this book for your February book club! I recently introduced this book to my 10th graders in the Bronx. I was worried they might not completely relate, but because many do not come from the best family situations, they are really loving it! Rowell does such a great job of evolving the characters and making you feel like you truly know them. I really appreciate your insights, Emma!

  • I really enjoyed reading this book. THanks for suggesting this quick easy read Emma, it was nice to knock a book over so quickly, and this book has just been everywhere so I was thinkin I probably should give it a go. I think primarily enjoyed this book because it gave voice to a story that we so rarely read well-written accounts of in fiction – namely family violence. I am a youth worker and hear stories like this often, and report to authorities often. The struggle is that even when we report – there are limited resources to intervene. This is why society shouldn’t be depending on government, but on us being community for one another. It was nice to read about the totality of Eleanor’s life, not merely hear the character’s struggle but see the strengths, the good relationships that she had – the saving graces.

    I was completely shocked by the revelation of who was writing on Eleanor’s books. I think my heart actually started pounding. I had a physical reaction to the danger and threat that this twist involved. I was however ok with the ending. I kind of liked that Eleanor and Park didn’t stay together at the end. I think it helps to show that no one person saves us. Each relationship we have can teach us, grow us, and help us journey forward. If Eleanor was to build her life around Park saving her, and bringing her meaning, it would kind of leave her stuck. This ending means that she can grow and flourish – without her identity being the “young person in poverty and violence”. She gets a chance to heal and become her own person.

    – I actually just finished reading All the Light We Cannot See – and I cannot wait to see the discussion. It has been the first book I’ve LOVED in a loooong time, and I tried to read it slowly to savour it. Emma I am so enthused by your book choices this year 🙂 Thanks for keeping the book club going. Last year I only got to read about half the books, but I love being a part of an international book club 🙂 (I live is Australia) Enjoy the read this lovely novel.

  • I really want to pick up this book!

    HUGE collective haul: Forever21, Lush, Sephora + many more!

  • Such an interesting love story. Not something I would have ever picked up on my own. Thanks for encouraging us to read! I feel the same as many commenters, I that I don’t necessarily relate as a 30+ year old to their interactions. But it was interesting nonetheless. I want to know his these characters continue their lives.

  • I loved the book, I read it in 1 night (and I’m not a native speaker) 🙂
    I’ll just comment on #1, I couldn’t believe that it’s as simple as “I love you”, and so I decided to stick to this answer by “Kai” on Goodreads: “Its totally “nothing ever ends” from the Watchmen. Bear with me here, why would Rainbow Rowell even mention the comic or that line from the comic unless it was significant in some way? Plus, if it were that would be some crazy foreshadowing genuineness. Also, reading comics together was the beginning of their relationship and a big part of their life together. Its simple, beautiful and would be pretty brilliant writing.”

  • I was excited to start reading this book and I bought it on my Kindle and read late into the night on a number of nights. I was sad when it ended. It reminded me of growing up as a teen, and I felt badly for Eleanor, as I related her to a girl that used to ride my bus…red haired, a bit of a loner and did her own thing. I was glad that Park and her fell in love and that love was so reminiscent of teenaged angst that I totally was taken back to what it was like to be crazy about a boy(s) in high school.

    I was disappointed in the ending. I wanted to know what Parks letters said. I desperately wanted Eleanor to open and read them and the three words…I thought they were “i love you”, too. Then again they could have been “I miss :you, or “Leave me alone”and the ambiguity of that left me disappointed in the ending. I do want to read more of this authors work and I recommended this book (even if a Young Adult read) to many of my friends. Ultimately I loved the ride.

  • I wasnt sure what to make of this book either. I found it a little dull as I often do with Rainbow Rowells books. They can be very character driven and a little light on plot if you ask me. That being said I did love the two characters she created! Like you I felt like the ending was lacking. I think I would have liked a bit more closure. Bee Reads Books

  • My first time reading an ABM bookclub book and I loved this pick! So far, it’s actually my favourite book of the year. I thought the dialogues were so so great. Although a book for teens really, I was amazed at how realistic and gripping this story was:from the characters and their background to the storyline.
    As for the ending – even though I usually can’t stand open endings – I thought it was really believable and hopeful too!

  • This was one of my all time favorite books. And not just because I have red curly hair like Eleanor. 🙂

  • I really, really liked this book. My teenage niece was reading it at Christmas and I read the inside of the cover. She said she really liked it. I was in high school during the 1980s, so that was an added attraction to me. I have to admit that I started reading it and stopped during the first few pages due to the language. While I do not consider myself to be ultraconservative, I was taken aback by the immediate use of “bad words” in the first few pages. When I saw that you were reading it for the book club, I gave it a second chance. I loved the characters and the story. I have been guessing at what the three words were. I, of course, immediately thought “I love you” because Eleanor never told Park she loved him (even though he was saying it to her).

  • I really liked this book up until the ending. I’m not a big romantic or anything but I can’t deny that I would have liked to see Eleanor and Park make it work, even from a distance. I felt happy for Eleanor because she was finally in a better place but sad for Park because he couldn’t be with her. Really hoping to read Fangirl!

  • I read this book last year, I’m weighing in because I love this story. The ending for me was just right. Kids have very little control over their lives, we don’t know what happens because they don’t know what will happen, to tie it all up in a happy little bow would have been a disservice to the story that came before, much of which is pretty horrible. Even if you meet a nice guy like Park, fall in love and eventually get married you’ll still be dealing with the fall out from the trauma of your childhood your whole life. While love may be a light in the dark it doesn’t conquer all. I love the way E&P love story develops too, and how the reader is pulled in to it – in fact I think Romeo & Juliet is put there as a comparator not to shadow – Romeo & Juliet is all about rash, impetuous love, while E&P is a slow burn, dislike becomes tolerance becomes like becomes love.

  • I loved this book and your notes on it. Rainbow Rowell actually has three other books and they are all really great. You should read all of them. I don’t know which one you were referring to when you said her other book, but read them all! 🙂

  • I liked it up until the last couple of chapters. We skim a whole year and don’t find out what happened to Eleanor’s mom and the kids. The stepdad was just too creepy, especially when we find out he was the one writing the notes on her books. I think Eleanor’s postcard said something hopeful too, whether it be “I miss you” or “I love you” or “I need you.”

  • This book has been on my list for a while, so I was glad this was the book club pick!

    I agree with others with being conflicted about the ending. I wish we had a little more info about Eleanor’s family, but I understand keeping it vague. I did feel like things moved super fast at the end, though. I was like, wait, the stepdad is even more of a creep than we thought? And she’s hanging out with Tina and Steve?? I should probably go back and read it again.

    I thought the portrayal of first love was so realistic, and I liked Cheryl’s comment above about how they are unable to articulate their feelings. I loved the inner dialogues, especially Eleanor’s where she tried to put into words her feelings for Park (that she wanted to eat him, that he was the sun, that he saved her). Even adults can’t usually express their true feelings to each other–I felt like it was super realistic that the teenagers weren’t able to do that in so many words.

    I also loved that the book was set in the 80s and Eleanor and Park bonded over pop culture. Isn’t that just how young love is supposed to go? Then those common interests are a gateway to understanding the deeper problems in their lives. My heart broke for Eleanor–I can’t imagine not being able to brush my teeth or even bathe. This definitely made me want to be more involved in this cause.

  • I might have to give this book a read! Sounds interesting. I’ve noticed all the light we cannot see in the book store and heard it’s pretty good!

  • I love this book too. I did think it was a fast read but I always read much faster with books I enjoy. I identified with Park’s family more too. And I kind of wish there was a bit more closure to the end.

  • About the ending of Eleanor and Park and the whole “three words postcard”: “I will say that the three words are happy and hopeful words.” is what Rainbow Rowell said. http://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/916.Rainbow_Rowell

  • I have not yet read this book by her but all this discussion is making me want to so thank you!! I have read “Fangirl” by her and absolutely LOVED it (highly recommended).

  • I first read this book about a year ago and loved it right off the bat. That being said, I already knew going into it that I loved loved loved Rainbow Rowell’s other books. The way she writes doesn’t subscribe to standard formulas, which I think is why I like it.

    Particularly, I think she writes to Eleanor and Park’s age really well. No, they don’t articulate themselves well to each other, and no, their choices aren’t fully thought-out and well-founded. They’re teenagers! To me, their interactions and dialogue made sense for where they are in life. If I was looking for the kind of romance that I could insert myself into (as a 25 year old)? Nah, this wouldn’t be my first pick. I don’t think this book is trying to be that though.

    I really do believe she told him that she loves him at the end too. Ha, I’m a romantic at heart, I guess. What else would she have written him? Maybe she just needed the time to know that she loved him because she loved him, not just because he was a safe haven from her family.

    And–whoa– the family dynamic. I work with foster children and their birth parents really intensively, and through that I’ve realized that this is a fairly good depiction of an abusive family. The interactions within the family structure (the younger children, the mother, Eleanor), the response from the community… all of it I found to be very true to some real families’ stories. Yes, the school and the neighborhood should have picked up on the abuse– but the same is so, so true of our current society. Even the way Park’s parents (who I think we all can agree are good people) stigmatize Eleanor’s family… man. It’s an uncomfortably honest account.

    Anyhoo. Felt like I had to weigh in too, out of my love for this book. I really, really recommend her other books as well, if you liked this one. Fangirl quickly became a favorite for me.

  • Rainbow Rowell did say in an interview that the three words on the postcard are happy words…that they made Park happy and that it should be considered as a happy ending. She also said she’ll never reveal what the words are, because she may write about these characters again later.

    I personally loved Fangirl by Rowell SO MUCH MORE. If you liked E&P even slightly, go read Fangirl!

  • I haven’t read the book but after reading your thoughts on it, as well as the discussion from the other readers, you have definitely peaked my interest. Thanks for being so “real” in your blog posts. I particularly loved what you said about making a point of helping others when the opportunity comes up, who may not have had a great upbringing or life. Your childhood and teenage years sound wonderful, in comparison to so many people yet you understand that the world isn’t always black and white. I think that’s awesome 🙂 I can’t wait to read the book now!

  • I read this book months ago and immediately fell in love. It felt so simple and natural for me, turning from the strangers on the school bus to in love through the medium of music and comics. I guess it’s the sort of love story you dream about when a cute guy sits next to or near you on the bus everyday. I really did like the ending, I thought it was vague because I thought it works, because love very rarely works out at that age no matter how true it is, and I like the idea that you can interpret whether or not ‘I love you’ are those three words, though of course, me being a romantic, I definitely thought they were.

    beth | babbleswithbeth.blogspot.co.uk

  • Emma, I love what you write in your second paragraph! Thank you so much for encouraging all of us readers to thing along these lines!

  • 1. I had to read this book twice because the first time I just hurried through it since I really wanted to know how it would end for Park and Eleanor. And I was somewhat disappointed about the ending. But the next time, when I really took my time to read and understand, I liked the ending. I like that we don’t know how it ended. They are only sixteen, and I don’t think that they would have gotten married and lived happily ever after anyway. Things very seldom end happily in that age, so I like how it never really ended for them.

    2. As a future social worker, what bothered me most about this book was the counselor Mrs Dunne. I’m pretty sure she knew more than she let on. I don’t know what kind of responsibility a social worker had in Omaha 1986. But today I hope that some adults would act upon their suspicions. Even Park’s dad seems to know more than he lets out, but even he doesn’t act upon his suspicion. I really believe that it taked a whole village to raise a child, and I also believe that it takes a whole village to keep a child safe and happy throughout the entire childhood. I’m sure Eleanor’s neighborhood is neither the first nor last to succeed in bringing up safe children, I’m just sad they all seemed to ignore all the children’s needs.

    3. I also love how the lovestory kind of sneeks up on you. Isn’t that how love usually happends? Quickly, without explanation. I thought this book described it so well and I’m also looking forward to reading her next book. Thank you for making me read this one!

  • I was also conflicted by the ending. Mostly I was still unsettled by Eleanor’s family situation. Obviously I was so happy that Eleanor was able to escape her abusive stepfather, but I was left worried about her siblings and her mother.

    One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was Eleanor’s friendship with Beebi and DeNice. It was comforting to see Eleanor act like a “normal teenager” with her friends during some of the scenes with Beebi and DeNice–talking smack about the mean girls, blushing about boys, etc.

    Overall I thought it was a great read!

  • I read Eleanor & Park sometime last year. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for selecting it. I also read All The Light We Cannot See last year and was lucky enough to a attend a book signing with Mr. Doerr. He was quite funny. I wouldn’t wait to start reading his book. It’s not a quick and easy read but well worth the time. Thanks again for your book cub.

  • February has gone waaaay too quickly! (Especially in the small number of reviews that I’ve been able to post this month. This looks good just from the cover (always a sucker for that)

    Steph – http://the-darkness-will-never-win.blogspot.com

  • Now, that you’ve mentioned it I never really think of other three words except for “I Love You”. That’s why I assume that it was a happy ending. After reading it for like four times I convinced myself that the author is thinking for a second part of for the book. I agree that love is larger than the sum of its part. 🙂 The book is easy to read with no complicated words plus I’ve listed at least more than five quotes from it. 🙂

  • I loved Eleanor and Park when I read it last year. One of my favourite pieces of writing ever is the prologue, which is then repeated near the end of her book. Something about the line “He stopped trying to bring her back” is so heartbreaking.

    Julie // Northern Rustication

  • I really enjoyed this book….I read it in two days which is really, really fast for me. I did go into it with higher expectations than I should have (sigh, you’ll almost always be let down) but I thought it was good and a great book for a YA novel. I thought it could easily be a movie and I found out they are making one!
    Sarah M

  • I’m glad you enjoyed this, because… well, I didn’t. And I actually feel bad about it because of my friends loved it.

    Maybe because it felt like too much of “insta-love” for me. I don’t understand how these two came to be together at all, especially after those really harsh first words from Park (if my memory serves me right it’s “Jesus fuck, just sit down” in the school bus). And that ending- sure, I can go with open-ended ones, but this is ridiculously vague. It didn’t feel like proper closure.

    My heart goes out to Eleanor in this book, though. She’s got too much on her plate.

  • I feel so conflicted about this book!

    I really loved the first part, I thought the way Rowell described them falling in love on the bus was really beautiful, but after that…. Nothing happened! Maybe it’s because I’m a bit (ok, a lot) older than the characters but it just seemed like a lot of unfinished sentences and staring. I also thought the ending was a big disappointment and I know it was only from their two perspectives but I would really like to have known what happened to Eleanor’s mum after the family left town.

    I read that Eleanor and Park is being made into a film and I can’t see how that will work at all, there’s not enough dialogue! Will have a great soundtrack though 🙂

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