Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a very believable love story, set in the 80's, about two people who seem to have nothing at all in common until fate steps in and makes them share a bus seat.
Eleanor is a curvy, red haired girl who is starting high school in a new place. She dresses differently, doesn't look like a super model and just doesn't fit in or so the kids on the school bus seem to think and your heart breaks for her as she is shunned by kids seat after seat until there is just one space available... next to a surly half-Korean boy who moves away from her and closer to the window as she sits down. The kids at the back of the bus hoot and ridicule her and she tries to ignore it and ignore the way she's treated in gym or the halls. Her home life is, if anything, worse than school and worse than you can even imagine. She shares a narrow bunk-bed with a sister and younger siblings sleep on the floor. Her Mom is beautiful but never there for her or the kids as she cowers or placates her nasty loser of a husband. He is a bully and someone the author makes you dread and fear for Eleanor throughout this story.
Such is Eleanor's life. She notices the boy, now her bus seat-mate, reading comics day after day. And he notices her trying to read them...so, he begins slowing down and leaving the pages open so she can read them, too. One day, he leaves a comic for her to borrow. From borrowing comics they progress to music and poor Eleanor can only dream of hearing the bands she's read about. She has written band names on her notebooks. The boy, whose name is Park, begins to make her cassettes. Is there anything sweeter than having a boy make you a mix-tape of the music that's close to his heart? They bond and Park begins to see the real Eleanor, a warm, caring girl with a quick mind who is capable of sarcasm and wit and is someone who is just fun to be with. She gets Park. Gets that he's different, too.
I won't spoil the pleasure of reading this beautifully written story by giving away too much because the Recommender hates going into a book with too much information. I like surprises! And so do you, I bet! So you'll have to buy it or borrow it from your library. Then be prepared to laugh... and cry. And clutch your book and yell "NO"! And fall in love with Eleanor and Park as they, slowly, fall for each other.