Adventures in Audio: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park written by Rainbow Rowell, and narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

Published by: Listening Library on February 26, 2013

Review Source: The Library!

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Plot: The Place: Omaha, Nebraska. The Time: 1986. The Situation: One tense moment on the school bus turns into so much more.

 Review: Why I waited so long to listen to this book is beyond me. I knew I would love it, I just wasn’t prepared for how much. I’m trying to keep it to a minimum, but there are spoilers in this review, so if you do not want to know STOP NOW! Since music plays such a strong role in Eleanor and Park’s relationship, here is my review in tracks (some appear in the book, some just felt right):

Teen Age Riot by Sonic YouthMeet Park: of Korean and American decent, and complete with the quintessential nuclear family, Park is a little punk rock and all sweetness. Where has he in high school?!

***Even though this song didn’t come out until 1988, I feel that Park would have been snagging it at the local record store immediately. I also feel it’s important to mention the date, because Park is totally a music buff/ purist.


Everyday is Like Sunday by Morrissey – Meet Eleanor: flaming red hair, a funky wardrobe that reminded me of my own high school days, and a somber disposition. Below the surface there is a sweetness and strength to her that I adored.

*** Also released in 1988, but it’s such a good song!


 The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Where our two protagonists first meet. I imagined this track playing while Eleanor searches for a seat on the bus that first day. It seems to perfectly sum up the tension of being a lone wolf and the everyday struggles of finding your place within the high school hierarchy.

***Also c. 1988, but apparently it was a great year for music.


This Charming Man by The Smiths – In which one book reviewer fell for Park, because he started a secret comic book club with Eleanor. *I die* His musical taste had me intrigued, but the minute he slides her comics and I find out he’s a Batman fan, it’s game over. I’m done for. 


The Hounds of Love by Kate Bush – When Eleanor and Park finally let themselves fall for one another. One of the most amazing things about Rowell’s writing is how genuine everything is. Her characters, their experiences, the way they speak / think / act ring so true it’s startling. Eleanor and Park’s relationship is the most accurate depiction of a high school romance I’ve ever read. It is neither simple nor easy, but full of love and longing.


One Step Beyond by Madness – Eleanor fleeing in her gym suit only to… Please go back to this part and read it with this on in the background and try and tell me her mad dash doesn’t feel exactly like this. I want to also mention that I cried for Eleanor at this part (and many other times).


Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) by BuzzcocksWhen lovers fight.


Thirteen by Big Star – But can’t bear to part.


The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen – Two lovers, discovered and distressed. The most difficult part of this book is every piece dealing with Eleanor’s stepfather, Richie. He is abusive and a sexual predator. The fact that Eleanor kept this from Park for so long left me with mixed emotions.

On one hand, I wanted to yell at her for not speaking out, because it is painful to see someone go through that. On the other, I reminded myself how challenging it is to even process what is happening when a person is living in an abusive environment. Some might worry about including something like this in a YA book, but the reality is that physical and sexual abuse exists. It is a real thing that effects people indiscriminately of age, gender, or any other factor. It can be very confusing, complicated, and frightening for those in need, and it isn’t always as simple as telling someone. I thank the stars above that Rowell wrote a book that addresses every aspect of what Eleanor is experiencing.

My hope is that if a person picks up this book and reads it, they will know that there is a safe person out there for them too. That there are Parks out there, full of love and willing to do whatever it takes to help. RAIIN is a wonderful resource to turn to, but please know that there are so many people out there to help too. Teachers, librarians, and emergency responders are all there to help. If you are out there, and can’t go home please know these people will help you get to the resources you need to be safe. Myself included.


Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division – When (because of Richie’s discovery) things fall apart. Real love isn’t stifling someone or controlling them. Real love is looking outside yourself and doing what is right for the person you love and for yourself. When Park helps Eleanor get away, that is real love. When he lets her go, because he knows she is safe? Real love. Their parting is tragic, but it is also the catalyst for Eleanor and her family to get the help they needed. Again, thank you Rowell for being amazing.


There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths – Where we explore if the love you have for someone ever disappears completely. The end of Eleanor and Park was heartbreaking. It reminded me of the loss of love we all experience. We might not ever know if they made it back to one another, but their heartbreak is palatable, and I do believe that the love they shared will remain with them eternally.


Blackbird by The Beatles – When you realize that through every tragedy, one must rise. Regardless of what Eleanor’s three word postcard said (I’m leaning towards “I love you”), I believe their love was powerful. It gave Eleanor the strength and safety she needed to help herself and her family. I appreciated that Rowell didn’t give us a neat little ending, because that’s not how life works. We love, we lose, and we keep moving towards that bright horizon. With a book as true as this one, no other ending would do.


The Narrators: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra were perfection. 

Length: Eleanor and Park is just under 9 hours, which might seem short, but I felt it was the perfect length. 

Final Hoot: Everything about this book was amazing. We should all give a round of applause to Rainbow Rowell for her writing such an amazing story, and to Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra for bringing this one to life.

Who should snag it: Everyone. Especially music loving 80’s kids.

Rating: 5 out of 5 hoots

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