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5 Books like Eleanor & Park: Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Mandy Baldwin itcherRainbow Rowell’s 2012 novel is an exquisite reminder of the innocence of first love. To be sixteen is not always as sweet as we recall it but there is a magic to having all the hope in the world – something which is likely to never come again. Books like ‘Eleanor and Park’, ‘All the Bright Places’, or ‘Anatomy of a Misfit’ speak for those who are experiencing that magic now and remind the rest of us of how it used to feel. ~ Mandy Baldwin

A Walk in the Park

Park is a boy and Eleanor is a girl and they fall in love as anyone can fall in love at any age. As young as they are, they already have a past and some of it is not as sweet and innocent as they deserve.

Despite this, they both hope for a happy ending; with their families seemingly dedicated to tearing them apart, they will learn that sometimes ‘forever’ isn’t all they dreamt about. 

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Books Similar to ‘Eleanor and Park’…

‘All the Bright Places’ (Jennifer Niven, 2015)

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Theodore is possessed by gloom, fascinated by death, and toying with the idea of suicide before he has even lived. Violet lives only for tomorrow, bereaved and grieving her lost sister, dreaming of escape and counting the hours.

They meet and one saves the other in more ways than one. Together, they can be themselves. But there are other forces at work as the outside world begins to intrude. While Violet’s natural optimism enables her to heal, Theodore can only see his happiness dependant on being with her.

They love each other, but is it fair for Violet to sacrifice her hope for love? All the angst of being a teenager is here, along with the sense that true adulthood will bring a reckoning.

Similarity Match: 85%
It’s first love, but here romance is overshadowed by mental health issues.

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‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ (Jandy Nelson, 2015)

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When her sister dies, Lennie is forced to re-imagine herself after years of living in her sister’s shadow. Against the background of her terrible grief, she must also continue to grow up.

She already finds it difficult to be the centre of attention and suddenly, there are two boys, each attractive and endearing, who are interested in her.

But can life really happen for Lennie if her sister isn’t around to share and witness it?

An incredibly moving portrayal of a teenager who must deal with adult emotions and find a path which she never thought she would have to follow.

Don’t expect an easy read, but the chemistry between the three central characters is overwhelming and beautiful.

Similarity Match: 80%
Shows that first love is sometimes as complicated as any other when real life intrudes into early romance.

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‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’ (Jasmine Warga, 2015)

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The darkest of the books in this list, ‘My Heart’ explores what happens when a bond becomes a secret, and that secret becomes a danger to life. Aysel and Roman have only one bond: each wants to die, and they can find very good reasons to do so.

The burdens their families have put on them, without intending harm, have finally become unbearable. They plan to commit suicide together. But, as they prepare for their exit, another emotion begins to develop between them.

They realise that it is love, and love is hope and so it might not be such a good idea to die after all. But what happens to love when the desire to die was what made love happen?

If you ever thought life used to be simpler, a book like this will remind you how wrong you were.

Similarity Match: 75%
Intense emotions and first love, but tainted by family history.

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If You Like ‘Eleanor and Park’, You Will Like…

These books give a wry reminder of a place we have all been at some point, wondering who we are and why we don’t fit in. A book like ‘Eleanor and Park’ is concerned with first loves, but these recommendations show what happens when first loves are still just a dream.

‘Anatomy of a Misfit’ (Andrea Portes, 2014)

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Anika is popular and nobody would think she had a care in the world. But inside, she feels a fraud: nobody knows she is really a freak. Adding to her problems is her obsession with Logan, a boy who used to be a loner but has reinvented himself as the hottest kid in her year.

And there is another added complication: Anika is only the 3rd most popular girl in school while the real Queen Bee takes Logan as her personal property. So Anika will face hell and demotion to being a nobody if she gets within a mile of him. Not that he seems interested in her anyway.

And what would he think of her if he knew she was a closet weirdo?

An expose of deviousness and power-play which is both sweet and infuriating. Cute but not poignant.

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‘The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting’ (Holly Bourne, 2014)

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She’s told she’s a loser. She says no, she’s a writer. But she faces rejection after rejection. She’s told that before she can write, she needs something to write about.

Thus begins Bree’s quest to become fascinating, which is pretty difficult given that she has to be home early and do her homework and chores.

But Bree is prepared to do everything she can to build her own back-story, and she can also imagine what everyone else is up to because that’s all material, too.

Luckily, Bree has no ambitions to be popular.

There are some moments of real hilarity as she finds that building a history can take her in directions she’d prefer not to go – all this is seen through the lives of very real characters.

All the joys and pitfalls of High School and home-life, but carefully avoids sentimentality.

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You, but Younger

These books celebrate what it was to believe in happy endings. One day, you may go to a school reunion and find that your first love has a paunch and a drinking habit and you are very glad your parents intervened. But wasn’t it sweet at the time?

Do you have any embarassing or poignant memories of your first love?

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