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Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkIt feels like everyone (the Horn Book included) is talking about Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Griffin, February 2013) — and for good reason. I recently read it when it up was for starring in the May/June issue (it was a shoe-in), and mourned the fact that Rachel Smith and I hadn’t come across it in time for our article “What Makes a Good YA Love Story?” Well, consider it a late addition.

This book is endearing, humorous, believable, sexy, and heart-wrenching, and it embodies nearly all of the qualities we looked for: the characters are crisply realized and wonderfully quirky; their repartee is smart, genuine, and entertaining; their experiences and predicaments are relatable; the vividly alive setting helps us connect with the story; their love for each other develops at an expertly natural pace; and we as readers learn as much about love as Eleanor and Park do.

Ms. Rowell, thank you for underscoring everything Rachel and I learned about what makes a love story great.

Readers, let us know if you feel the same.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.



  1. rachel s. says:

    sounds great! Can I borrow a copy?

  2. Catherine Healy says:

    Like The Miseducation of Cameron Post (one of my very favorite YA novels, also set in the Great Plains in the late 1980s/early 1990s), Eleanor & Park played with my idea of “historical fiction.” The story is set within my lifetime, but the world has changed so much in the last three decades that I felt I was reading about an era far removed from my own. For me, though, the intense specificity of the setting in Eleanor & Park WAS the entry point. From Joy Division to stonewashed miniskirts, Rainbow Rowell creates such a vivid and detailed world that I had no trouble imagining myself in Omaha in 1986.

    It’s easy for me to understand why this book has resonated with readers of all ages. The emotions Rowell captures in this novel — frustration with family members, worry about fitting in, the thrill of falling in love for the first time — are universal, but the characters are so real that the simple girl-meets-boy storyline feels brand-new. I saw myself on every page of Eleanor & Park, and yet every plot twist surprised me.

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