I love this part of the novel, when Eleanor and Park haven’t quite admitted how interested they are in each other, but they can’t stop letting the other become such a large focus in their life. in English class, Park suggest that Romeo and Juliet endured because adults want to remember what it’s like to be young and in love, and here, this reluctant obsession is one of the specific things to remember. Park can’t stop thinking about how strange Eleanor is, how she talks, how she dresses. He tries to say something to her — just one thing! just about English! — but can’t quite do it. Eleanor can’t help but drifting towards Park — she stares at him when she spaces out, her thoughts often go back to him, she considers just what his relationship is to the rest of the kids on the bus. She is easily flustered by him, leaving when she sees him at park, unable to even imagine reading his comics in front of him.
Park seems, to me, more absorbed in Eleanor in these chapters, which helps to contrast their home situations. Park has the time to sit and think about Eleanor, to make her mix tapes and pick out comics. He can worry that what might ruin her morning is his forgetting to grab a stack of new comics for her to read. We see flashes and pieces of what is difficult for Park here: the “friendly” racism of Cal and other students, his comparing himself to his brother, but it’s Eleanor who is doing so much adjusting and coping, here. Eleanor, having ended the crisis of being kicked out by her stepfather, has begun a new one — moving back in with him. Her time at home is fraught with tension and worry. She’s worried about her younger siblings and her mom. She’s worried for herself, both at the possibilities of what happens when she has to stay in the house with Richie and what would happen if she was kicked out again.
Park is given the tiniest window into the idea that Eleanor’s life off the bus is far more complicated than her life on the bus when she mentions that although she wants to hear the Smiths, she hasn’t been able to. Park, with his hundreds of cassettes and records, a stereo and walkman, almost can’t imagine it. He sees the small window into a world of without, and he decides to help with comics and mix tapes. Remembering what it’s like to be young and in love is to remember how important, how much of himself these gifts are.
What else? What else!
- I’m secretly terrified that I’m exactly like the English teacher in this novel. I probably am.
- I have a very specific image of Richie in my head and it’s of Kim’s stepdad in the Freaks and Geeks episode, “Kim Kelly is My Friend.”
- As someone who, as a teenager, wished they looked like their mom when it was clear they were going to look so much more like their dad, I understand much of what Park feels in comparing himself to his brother.
I feel like I should be recommending a comic book here. Unfortunately, I don’t read that many comics. I’m convinced that I have low visual literacy and that they take me much long than they should to read. I do have a favorite and it is Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World. If you’ve seen the movie, then you must read the comic. If you haven’t seen the movie, but love teenage angst, female friendships, and small-town boredom, then you must read this comic. I think Eleanor would love it, and it would remind Park of Eleanor.