It's 1986 and although the technology is different all the other High School nightmares are just the same.
Park is a half Korean boy trying to stay out of trouble and unnoticed at a white suburban school. He's found that the best way to do this is to plug himself into his Walkman. Eleanor is already in trouble in a house which will never feel like home and a town she doesn't know. Eventually they will become champions for one another. But first, they will fall in love.
The book is told alternately in the voices of Eleanor or Park. It's immediately apparent that there are key differences between these two people's perceptions of the same thing. A reoccurring theme in young adult novels, perhaps because it is such a fundamental lesson for us all.
Using two narrative voices also gives us access to both our protagonists' home lives. And that's where it gets darker, because although Park has an unconventional family, Eleanor's circumstances are downright ugly and getting worse every day.
Happily, the story is redemptive, but not because teen love saves the day, because these young people save themselves, together.
This is a truly extraordinary book, written so true to life, that all the humor, fear, anger and confusion make perfect sense. I love the music references, I love the characters and I love the author's blog.
If you are a teenager or have ever been a teenager, read this book. If you have ever been in love, read this book. If you have ever been afraid, read this book.
I hope I'm making my point strongly enough.
Published February 26, 2013 by St Martin's Griffin