Eleanor has just started at the local high-school and is immediately picked on as a misfit, but she finds solace in Park, who is cool enough to not be picked on, but enough of an outcast to not be with the "in" crowd. I instantly connected to both Eleanor and Park's characters. It was written in dual-perspective, so that probably helped. And unlike, Fangirl, I found the two narratives sufficiently different.
Eleanor is large and red-headed with a distinct lack of fashion sense. She's new to the school and has a troubling home life after moving back in with her mum and her abusive step-father.
Park is the only vaguely ethnic kid in the neighborhood (he's half Korean on his mum's side) and he practices martial arts every Wednesday. He doesn't feel respected by his dad, who wants Park to be more manly and he feels sometimes his mum is too overbearing.
I think what I related most to about these characters, although they are vastly varied in situation and emotions is that they're both kind of "social outcasts," I have been the new girl in school way too many times to even count (okay, it was only like 3 times in three different countries) and it's not easy, but once you find a person who accepts you for who you are, they become a constant in unprecedented situations. And that's what I related to so much with these two.
Okay, what else did I like about this book? Firstly, it gave me all the feelings. Everything from "Ohmygosh! This is the cutest of the cute! Look how adorable that is!!" to "Ouch! That is totally not cool. Why do people suck so much?!" "to "NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!!" to "I don't want to live on this planet anymore." back to "Cute! Adorable! UGHHH!! Too cute. It hurts from how cute they are!"
Secondly, I liked that it was set in the 80's because even though I wasn't alive then, some really good stuff has come from the 80's that they touched on in the book, like mixed tapes, Walkmans, The Smith's, Batman and Watchmen comics.... that sort of stuff.
Lastly, I felt that it was beautifully written, it didn't feel heavy or dragged out even though it was a sufficiently long book, and I could see/feel the characters grow and change and mature. It never felt overly showy or dramatic, just true. And that's how I think teen novels should be.
I highly recommend it, but prepare yourself to feel all the emotions.