When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
So I was thinking to myself, wow, I’m doing so well keeping up-to-date. But then I checked my blog and whoops. Well, kids, I tried. Anyways so here’s this sweet book about these two kids, Eleanor and Park. You know how hard it is for me to spell that name? Eleanor? I constantly just want it to be Elenor. Or Elanor. But no. It has to have both.
Okay, so what happens here. Eleanor and Park is about how these two kids meet on the bus and fall in love, slowly. It’s cute. Pretty cute. But there’s also surprising depth, a result of Eleanor and Park being a lot farther from vanilla than almost any teen romance I’ve read. Maybe I need to broaden my authors or something, but I feel like I always end up with some variation of John Green characters– lonely white boys with nothing to do, and odd little girls that help them find their way. There are a few exceptions, but not as many as you’d like. It’s hard to find characters that are battling with insecurities other than size (a pretty common way for authors to make their protagonists “different” but not too different) or boy leads that aren’t pale.
So that’s actually one of this book’s huge strengths. Park is a Korean-American and, because the book gentle slides between both perspectives (third person), he gets a chance to voice some of his insecurities– the fact that you hardly see Asian American men in Hollywood portrayed as handsome leads, and the negative impact that has on him as a smaller, more slender boy. Park’s still middle class, though, and his family has good standing in this town where everybody seems to know each other, so at least he’s fine in terms of social standing. But for Eleanor, this is a huge problem. She’s poor, she’s got an abusive step-dad, and her mom is in a relationship she can’t leave for the sake of the other kids. It’s a heavy load for a young kid, but it’s excellently written and enriches the character, and plot. And it gives Eleanor’s own insecurities a base– she’s curvy, and it’s not that her clothes just aren’t cool; she’s literally too poor to afford anything else. It’s a refreshing, I guess, to see a girl who sometimes hates herself (haven’t well all, growing up?) for reasons other than being the “ugly” girl, who’s actually really pretty and just can’t see it. Like, that doesn’t even count.
Park and Eleanor are really like-able. Not because you’re swooning over them, but probably because you could very possibly be them. I’m pretty sure I’ve met these people before. Like ninety percent sure I have. Rowell’s development is so real, and so in touch with the teenage psyche. I loved it. I devoured this book. I loved the pacing, which slowly built to an actual climax that was something other than a bold misunderstanding which causes the couple to break up. I liked the ending, and how it didn’t say it out right, but you knew. I really liked that it didn’t romanticize Eleanor’s home problems, and that all the adults in the story weren’t total crap. I liked that Eleanor and Park were two people who were into stuff and weren’t afraid to show it. I liked that the characters actually were developed, and I especially liked how this book blended a romance into a greater story about the character’s lives. There was some substance there.
As far as the actual writing, Rowell has talent. I like how she words. I checked out her other stuff and I think she might be my new romance writer. It reminded me of a better version of the old school Sarah Dessen books, with interesting people falling in love.
I can see that this is going to be a shorter review, but there’s only so much you can say here before you get repetitive. I’m going to leave you with this: I bought this book. On my nook. But if I were to be honest, I almost wish I hadn’t. Because I can’t lend it to other people, and I really, really want to.
0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…
1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.
2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.
3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.
4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).
5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.
6 and above. What I want my book to be.