Eleanor & Park Book Review

 When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

-Book summary

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.

Ri’s Rating:

3.5/5


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.

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Before I Fall Book Review

They say that just before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

pg 3

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I read this so long ago. So many moons ago. I ended up paying a bunch of money in fines because I kept it from the library for so long. Because I loved it so much…

Yeah, okay. So you know how I read a lot? Like, a lot a lot? Like, half of the books I read I don’t even review because there’s just too many, a lot?

Yeah. When you’ve entered so many worlds and stories, they start to become a little repetitive– well the less creative ones do. I think that’s most prominent in the YA genre, ’cause it’s so full of fads and stuff. Once upon a time all the stories were vampires; now they’re all dystopias.

Anyways, through my years I’ve read many in the high school story genre. But this one stuck out. I would definitely count it among the best of the genre. Let’s get into why.

So first, the story is told in first person by Sam Kingston, one of the popular girls at school. She goes to a party one night where she dies. But instead of passing on into whatever comes next, she gets another try at life, a few more attempts to relive her last day and try to make things right.

At first glance, I thought I’d read this story before somewhere. I mean, pretty girl dies and learns the real meaning of life before coming back by some heavenly gift at the end? That’s basically what you’d expect from that summary, right? Average characters, average story, average book? Right? Riiiiight?

Well, you’re wrong. I was so very wrong.

This is not the story where the pretty popular girl grows a heart. This is not a story where redemption is obvious and easy. This is not a story where everyone lives .

That last one is a byproduct of too much Doctor Who. But it’s true nonetheless.

Sam, our main character and narrator, is perfect. Well, I mean, she’s totally flawed, but in terms of character and realism, she’s perfect. It’s hard to get teen speak down properly. To translate everything that is pubescent into words. I don’t really know of any author that does it really well, except for maybe John Green, but that’s probably because he has robots inside our heads. There’s no other explanation for his book quality.

Oliver must have some too. She has to. I mean, she got our language down. Like, spot on. Just, it was there. On the pages. Everything dumb and slightly homophobic that teens say, it was all there. The dialogue was true to character all the way. Also, when Sam had to reflect deeply on things, it didn’t transport me back in time. She still sounded like herself, not like someone who was possessed by the ghost of Shakespeare and can’t help by speak in ye olde language about the moon. Or some crap like that. Basically, Sam sounded like a teen all the time, and though she went from being a sheltered, slightly childish teen, to a more adult-like person, she didn’t sound old. Do you get what I’m saying? Or am I just rambling.

Yeah, I’m rambling.

The other nice thing about the writing was that it wasn’t moany or dull. I mean, the character dies in the first few pages and then we spend the rest of the book reliving the same day. That could get boring very quickly.

But it didn’t. Each chance was fresh and interesting and the character changed at a very realistic pace. A lot of times, especially in tacky teen movies, people just suddenly snap out of their awful personalities and let’s face it: that never happens. Sam made a lot of mistakes when she tried to make things better and it all helped her grow, but she never stopped being herself fundamentally.

Wait, though. I don’t really think I’ve explained who Sam is fully. She’s the popular girl, I’ve said that. She’s got a popular group of friends and they all hang out. Every school has people like this, people who are better looking than the average person. But in books, they’re always awful. Well, Sam’s a little mean in the way that all kids are. I suppose she’s more than a little mean, but she doesn’t see consequences. That is her biggest flaw, I think.

Keeping on subject though, she and her friends were real friends. Do you know what I mean? People always say that “popular” kids are fake. What makes them fake? It’s like calling a model fake cause she’s not fat. Being different doesn’t make Sam and her friends any less real, and just because they gossip a little more or laugh a lot doesn’t mean they don’t all honestly care for each other. I think a lot of authors push the bad personalities onto “popular” kids because that’s the easy thing to do. But, as shown here, it’s a far better read when you treat them like real people and explore their emotions. Popular kids can be fascinating, and with this book, I think more so than the pretty ugly-girl or the cute nerd-boy.

So what I’ve been trying to say for the past two paragraphs is that Sam is a popular girl, yes, but her life isn’t shallow. So when I say that she remains true to herself, what I mean is that she doesn’t give up her friends in some bold self-renovation because her life is so surface. They are her friends. So she keeps them around.

That simple aspect is definitely part of what made this book so good. It wasn’t clichéd. At all.

Another thing that made it great was that Sam started liking this guy. He was basically the cutest thing, but he didn’t start out that way, not in Sam’s eyes at least. His name is Kent and he was a bit of a weirdo. But the more Sam got to know him, the more appealing he became and just following their quasi-relationship  was probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My point being, this was a very natural development and I loved it.

Okay, let’s see. I’ve rambled about language, I’ve confused you with friendship, I’ve gushed about romance. What else is there? I said the plot/pacing was good, I recall that. I suppose the only left to talk about is the ending.

Which was great. It’s not what you would expect. Though after reading this review, perhaps you now expect it. In that case, I’ll make that statement personal: it was totally not what I expected. I really thought it was going to be cliché, but it wasn’t. It was a great ending to a fantastic little book.

Oliver also wrote the Delirium book, which was a lesser novel in my opinion. It’s going to be a series, but honestly, I wish this was the one that I got more of. Like I said, it’s one of the best genre pieces I’ve read in a long time. Guys, it was really, really good.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQ.5/QQQQQ
3.5/5


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.

Sloppy Firsts Book Review

I probably picked it up from my sister, Bethany, who was fourteen at the time and spent hours in front of the mirror rolling her eyes and practicing pissy looks to advertise her so-called angst. Of course, the difference between Bethany and me is that I’ve never had to practice.

-pg 5

Prequel to: Second Helpings

Sloppy Firsts by Megan Mccafferty

Look at that cover. So unassuming. It’s got the classic cover of a sucky teenage romance/ inner greif/ finding yourself book. It’s got a picture of a girl on it, with her legs showing, and it’s bright and streamlined, and even the title is implicative. It looks so….shallow.

And, yeah, I judge books by their covers.

So by all means, I shouldn’t have put this on hold from the library. I shouldn’t have even looked twice at it when it came up as suggested after I ordered Along for the Ride off Amazon. But perhaps Amazon knows a bit more than I do because check this:

This book is a total poser.

It seems like a lame crappy novel, but actually, I  liked it. I read it yesterday night and today and I have to say, it helped me escape from the pain of my head wound (which I might die from).  I just sat in bed and read and read and read, which I can only do with books that don’t drag, or get long winded, or keep repeating themselves. This books was funny enough to keep me interested.

Sloppy Firsts didn’t do anything unheard of, but somehow it just took cliches and slammed them in my face. Well, kinda.

The main character is a girl, who is brilliant and kinda like me in that we obsess about the most random stuff and get really worked up about it and then complain that no one understands when they really shouldn’t because we are being totally random. Her name is Jessica Darling.

Yes, Jessica Darling. I would hate it, and she hates it. But she also milks it, and her straight As to get out of trouble.

Anyways, so Jessica isn’t a brilliant nerd with no friends. She has people she doesn’t really like but she hangs out with anyways, and her best friend just moved away, so she’s a little lonely. And Jessica isn’t uncool; the people she is hanging out with are a few from the popular crowd. She doesn’t like them because they’re not really original and she laughs at them behind their backs.

So Jessica is bursting through the ugly/nerdy/loser stereotype already. She also breaks the pining-over-a-guy-who-doesn’t-know-she-exists-when-Mr.-Right-is-there-all-along thing too.

Because she does pine, but she also knows it has no future. And Mr. Right isn’t really there. He’s kinda Mr. Wrong. I think. The ending made that unclear…

Now that we’ve established all the broken stereotypes, I feel like I should tell you what the book is about. But I also feel like it would ruin it, so I’m going to do a totally Ri-style summary which will make you interested:

Jessica’s normal, just normal and she’s griping and acting a lot like me, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Then one day she pees into a cup for a druggie and yells at her fake friends for being fake and spills the beans about who banged who over summer and calls a guy every night at midnight and then tells him that they’re never going to have a relationship, ever, and then some more stuff happens and then the books ends.

So you can tell, there’s romance, and relationships, and lots of funny little stories. As for the ending–it’s a bit of a cliffhanger to be honest. Which I didn’t like. But whatever.

Has anything I’ve written so far made sense? I feel like it hasn’t. Must be the head wound. I might die from it.

Anyways, I liked this book because I liked the main character because she was funny and interesting and not some mopey teenage cliche. The plot was engaging and Jessica was a great guide. She was just a kid being normal and writing about it. Sure, this book wasn’t anything profound, but it wasn’t trying to be. Which was good. It was fun. Think John Hughes, but not quite.

Ri’s Rating:

QQ.5QQQQQ

2.5/5

0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induiced 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.