One of my most trusted and avid readers, who will be a 9th grader this fall, recommended this book to me. I gave it a shot. I am always looking for more books to share with my middle school audience.
Honestly, peas and carrots don't really seem to go together as much as people think. One is round and green, the other is (usually) cut square and orange. Eleanor and Park don't seem to fit together either - Eleanor is a red head who considers herself "large," and Park is a small Asian guy. But in Rainbow Roswell's novel, the two seems to go together like peas and carrots, as the saying goes. When they first meet, they aren't so keen on each other, but they are both in need of some support. As typical teenagers, they both want to escape their home lives and find solace in their relationship.
Pros: The characters were well written and seem alive because of their normalcy. The story grips you with an interesting prologue that leaves you wondering where this story is going. The author is creative in her use of point of view switch - each character has his or her own point of view and side of the story. Through all of it, the love story works and presents a real relationship - one made up of music and 80's pop culture references. The two have a "nerd streak," which will attract young readers who can relate to them.
Cons: There is strong language in this book that seemed unnecessary. There is also bullying of Eleanor by the mean girls at school, and she has very low self esteem and a negative body image. Eleanor's family situation is one of abuse and neglect, which creates a hostile environment. The ending leaves you hanging without tying up loose ends, which really made me feel lost and unsure as I finished the story. Some of the content may be too deep for a middle school student.
Should I read it? Yes! Enjoyable, well-written, and moving!
Can I share this tomorrow with my students?
Middle school Students - Nope, too young.
High school Students - Yes, with a warning of content.
There are always exceptions - I might recommend this one to an 8th grade student who I know is a strong reader and is experienced with this kind of content.