Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 genies
Published: February 26, 2013
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Library Loan
Pages: 325
Format: Hardcover
Purchase At: or TheBookDepository

Goodreads Summary

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

My Thoughts

Eleanor & Park is such a profound book. I went in thinking that this would be one of those over-hyped reads that everyone loves for no particular reason. I am so happy to say that this book is definitely not that. I'm so in love with Eleanor, with Park and this story...Rainbow Rowell pretty much catapulted herself to the very top of my "love" list with this book. She's amazing.

Plot: I like that the story progresses from them disliking each other to a lovely kind of love which first grew from friendship. You really get the sense that these two, Eleanor and Park, are from entirely different households. They shouldn't even be bumping shoulders, but they do because she's got nowhere else to sit on the bus, and Park being the grudging gentleman offers his much coveted empty spot. She sits, they don't talk, pretty much the end of story. Except...there's just something about Eleanor, and that Park...

Seeing their friendship develop was the best thing. They bond over music (rock and roll of course) and comic books. This is where Park warms my heart, he gives her things like his music player, a device her lousy step-dad, (responsible for kicking her out of the house for a year), and mousy mom, (who did not retrieve her daughter for a year), could never provide. He lets her pretend, that she doesn't have to go home to sharing everything at least three ways. He's her little piece of escape, and I was just as lost (in him) as Eleanor.

This book captures them pretty much at that weird phase in high-school, where you're uncomfortable in everything and all the world seemingly has a magnifying glass trained to watch you fail. This sense of awkwardness helped the story. You could tell that Eleanor was uncomfortable with her body, that everyone else wanted her to feel uncomfortable, but that Park just couldn't get enough of who she was. He likes her, even though the other kids call her Big Red, (assholes), and she's not from the best home. He likes her, and I loved him.

Setting: The setting was a throwback to the 80's, Bon Jovi you forever have my heart. All the big hair, Walkman's and leg warmers...really it was rad. There's a fair amount of cussing in this so be warned going in, the language is coarse at times. Eleanor & Park takes place in a town of disparity. You have some families like Park's who are pretty well off, they aren't rich, but compared to Eleanor's brood, there isn't much to complain about. She's living in tight quarters and hand-me-downs are a way of life, necessities.

Most books have this huge border between the rich and poor, like poor people must be segregated, but Eleanor & Park was more realistic. Sure the divide exists, but it is not hardly as huge. He can make it to her house by foot, no need for hitch-hikes or bus tickets, and the two exist somewhere inbetween.

Aw. Call me sentimental!

The placing of the story was both chosen and written well, if it were any different I don't think I would have lost myself as entirely in the novel.

Characters: This is the big one. Characters like these feel like precious marbles rolling about. You want to pick them up, dust them down and describe them all, but that isn't very efficient. Eleanor & Park is made up of an ensemble of very real almost-people. Almost because they are fictional, keepin' it real y'all, but they're endowed with enough problems and failings of their own that you almost forget they're fictional. There's a list of characters with issues: Eleanor has home problems, she's being bullied by some pervert writing nasty things in her notebook, and her stepfather is the crown regent of all douches. Park has a little bit of identity issues going on, he's half Korean and doesn't fully know what that means. His parents love each other, but he is feeling a little out of place with himself. There's also the matter of women still being primarily dependent on men; Rowell brings to mind the struggle many mothers and wives faced, trying to strike a balance between being a home-maker and independent.

This is why I say that everyone has something going on. Even the mean girl has problems, hell hairspray is not the answer to everything!

I speak the truth.

Eleanor was my favourite. She is sarcastic, opinionated and awkward. She is the kind of heroine I should have grown up reading; curvy and real, Eleanor truly does feel like a person. I'm kind of sick of YA/NA novels having model thin girls alone ending up with the great guys, like being big immediately disqualifies you from happiness or something. The cute guys are going to want even cuter girls, YA/NA says, and I am happy to report, Rowell pretty much slapped that idea upside the head.

For many people life is struggle. They don't live picturesque realities marred solely by one event! Life is like being tossed down a hill (you know the more dangerous version of the kind kids roll themselves down on). If by the end of it you're somehow unscathed, everyone knows you were wearing shin pads. Eleanor was rolled down that hill. She didn't make it out without bruises, but she's inspirational to me; I know she is going to inspire somebody else as well.

Overall: This book is not perfect. It ends pretty sadly and I did consider briefly pulling out a blue light in case Rowell had written the actual conclusion in invisible pen. Alas, this was not so and it really does end like that. It was realistic, true to what usually comes of life and young love. It doesn't mean that I liked it. I would have preferred a better resolution to things, but there is no use crying over spilt gin. At least I think that is how the saying goes? I see the glimmer of hope there on the final page, the idea of Eleanor and Park is still there, but truthfully I would have liked more. These two belong together.

I'm sure somebody could find faults with this book, that is why it isn't perfect, but I certainly couldn't fault Rowell or Eleanor & Park for anything. I liked the story, loved the characters and fell for the romance. It got me hard and my permanent copy is on its way in the mail now. This is why lending books from the library is pretty much pointless; when the novels are as good as Eleanor & Park, I end up buying them anyway.

5/5 genies: 5 million bajillion genies, again and again, this book is incredible! By far the best read of 2013 :)

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Going by FTC guidelines, allow me to point out that all the novels reviewed on this blog were either bought by me, or given by an author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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