** Spoilers everywhere! **
Eleanor is neither shy nor social. She's distant, like she's been through something and no longer gives a crap about others.
I re-read the first couple of pages about five times. I'm still confused. I mean, it's nice that Eleanor didn't conveniently think her family's history for the reader, but this is too much dropped-in-the-middle unless Rowell's goal was to make readers confused. I think the implication is that Eleanor ran away from home for a year or two when her mother started dating Richie and the previous night was her first night back home, to a much smaller home than she was used to.
Was the English teacher really commenting on Eleanor's absence with his overbearing mention that she could pick "A Dream Deferred" as her poem to memorize? Feeling so in medias res here.
No, this is a new school for Eleanor. Eleanor didn't run away, she was kicked out by her mom's boyfriend, as a minor. I don't know why yet, but now I know why she hates Richie: he beats her mom. By the time she came back, the other kids are calling him "dad." No wonder she's angry.
In a John Green book, the protagonists would be waxing poetic to show off how clever they are. In this book, the protagonists come off as clever without saying clever things, just because their peers are astonishingly dimwitted. No wonder the kids in the back of the bus consider Park to be an authority of some kind.
It's interesting how Eleanor develops an interest in the comics Park reads on the bus, even though she's obviously been reading high-brow adult lit for a while. I liked how Park's only response to noticing this was holding them open a little wider and slowing down. He's nicer than he thinks, or maybe nicer than he's had an opportunity to be.
Eleanor's backstory is filling in. She went to stay with friends of her mom's for a few days and that turned into months then over a year. More details about Richie are making me very disgusted at how he can abuse this woman and turn her into someone frantic to please him, then convince all of her kids to think of him as their father because, well, they saw how defying him led to banishment.
Adorable. They haven't spoken to each other since the first minute they met, but they're both paying attention. Park is fascinated at her social defiance and Eleanor is surprised someone is showing her a little consideration. Just a little, but it's not something she's had for a while.
Chapter Ten and Eleven
Kids should never have to listen to their mother being beaten in the next room. There's a hint that Richie raped Eleanor's mother afterward. Dark. The detail about Eleanor taking a bath the next morning by washing her top half first then her bottom half so she wouldn't ever be fully naked in this tiny house missing a bathroom door was, well, memorable.
Bam, lost it at Park being decent when Eleanor came onto the bus an obvious mess. And he's not the only decent one in this chapter. One thing I'm liking about this book is that it's not a bunch of crush thinking and grand romantic gestures. It's little things. It's spur of the moment actions coming out of their natures before they realize it. Things they had suppressed to survive around other people who take every opportunity to do damage. They're starting to trust each other.