I suppose if I were to be really nit-picky I'd probably give Eleanor & Park 3 1/2 stars, but I love Rainbow Rowell's writing too much to give it any less than 4 stars. I recently finished Rowell's most recent book Fangirl and absolutely loved it. I couldn't (wouldn't) put it down. In comparison with Fangirl and Attachments (another favourite), I felt Eleanor & Park read more of a debut novel where Rowell was experimenting with her style/voice (which upon research, it actually turns out that Rowell did write it first but published it second...). It just didn't have the same...flow...or depth that I felt Rowell really is starting to perfect in her writing. I found the characters to be too black and white, border-lining stereotyping (in that both Eleanor and Park's home lives' were polar opposites...good, wholesome boy meets disillusioned and down on her luck-girl). This said, Rowell writes so darn well that you ignore the extremes and just enjoy the story that she's creating.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Park's dad and mum - I love reading about a relationship where the parents obviously love eachother - it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
I wasn't totally in love with the whole Eleanor and her stepfather relationship. I thought the underlying tone of menace was excellently done; however, I felt that certain pieces weren't fleshed out for me: I didn't understand why the younger children called Richie "dad" when they so obviously hated him before...it's never explained or implied what it was that made all the kids accept Richie. Also, I disliked how at the end of the book, it's never explained what happens to Eleanor's family (especially the sister (Maisy ?)....does Maisy escape from the weird, awfulness of Richie?) - I mean I realize that at the end, it describes how all the kids toys was no longer in the yard and Richie was still in the house, but I think explaining to the reader how the family was able to get out of such an awful situation would have been better .
However, this said, Rainbow Rowell is definitely one of my new favourite authors - I hands down recommend ANY of her books!! :D