The reason I never defend my love of Young Adult (and even children's) novels is because the ones I read are usually good enough to transcend any age group and become a true classic. Eleanor & Park is certainly no exception. After reading the entire John Green canon years ago, I figure I'd stroll down the YA aisle to see what else was noteworthy. I had seen the cover of Eleanor & Park pinned on the Urban Outfitters Pinterest, so it caught my eye. Then the short description on the inside of the dust jacket won me over. And probably the fact that it combines "punk rock and true love" on the cover.
The premise is simple: a new girl comes to school and is pretty much instantly outcast. But then she, Eleanor, sits with Park on the bus. While the relationship is slow to build, especially because of the social problems it presents for Park to like Eleanor, it is such a wonderfully accurate portrayal of falling in love for the first time. Eleanor swoons all day after Park holds her hand. I can remember doing the same. While this is certainly an endearing love story, it's much more raw than that. It explores abusive relationships (don't worry, not between the titular characters), social expectations, peer pressure, and a culture before cell phones. I can't imagine what it would be like to date without technology at this point in my life, but reading about a fledgling couple in the 1980s gave me a bit of a romantic notion for it.
I think the reason why I liked the story so much is that it forces readers to not be so damn cynical. Love like this happens, even for teenagers. This won't be an enjoyable read if you roll your eyes the whole time. The magic is in the sincerity. And I would love to go back to a time in my life that was simple enough to freak out over someone holding my hand. (Ok, I still do that. Can't lie.)
If you're looking for an intense read that you have to analyze for weeks to understand, this obviously isn't for you. I read it in about two days. But it will stick with me forever.