Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Published: February 26th 2013
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Date read: June11th 2014
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.“
As promised, I jumped right into Eleanor & Park after I finished writing the review for Fangirl. The book recently got released here in Norway, so I thought why not? The book is often praised as the new Romeo & Juliet, which I must say, made me quite interested. Eleanor & Park is about, well the title says it all, Eleanor and Park, who first meet each other in August 1986, on a school bus. Park is a half Korean and half Irish-American boy, who loves comic books and music. Eleanor is the new girl who suddenly shows up and gets bullied by mostly the whole school. Park is the one to offer a seat next to his on the bus on her first day, and this is what leads to the lovely story between these two, dare I say it, star-crossed lovers.
Eleanor Douglas: I don’t know whether I really like Eleanor or not. Sometimes I feel like she over-exaggerates a bit too much and I’m left there wondering if it really is the case, or if it’s only her brain who is overworking. Sometimes she comes off too whining (i.e. first visit to Park’s house, and after getting a makeover by his mother). I do understand that her situation is hard, but I don’t know. Half of me feel bad for saying such things, considering her circumstances, yet the other half think that she should do something to make her case at least a tiny bit better.
This was why I was so happy when her character developed so much by the end of the book. She went from being this, somehow, emotional wreck, to this girl who seems to grow into her skin and accept herself, and Park’s love for her.
Park Sheridan: This Asian kid. This freaking Asian kid was such a charmer. I love how he so smoothly read slower and holds the freaking comic books wider so that Eleanor can read to after seeing her peeking over all the time. Despite caring so much about what other have to say about him, he grows into not caring anymore. The thing about this story is that everything is a bit too cliché. The character developments, the plot developments, more or less everything can be predicted, one way or another. Park is self-concious about his looks, stating that he was unfortunate to be the one to get the Asian genes, so he looks more Asian than his brother. And shorter as well. I guess Rainbow Rowell is known for her realistic concerns when it comes to her characters. They are usually self-concious and so on. Which is what young people these days also are.
Mindy & Jamie (Park’s parents): Througout this book, I really loved Park’s parents. Despite their PDA and all that, I really liked their mechanics. The way they just worked with each other. Their love was such a contrast to the others parents in “The Flats”, the neighborhood where this all takes place most of the time. According to Park, all the other parents are divorced or/and remarried, and his parents are just there, still loving each other as though it was still their first year of marriage. The stuff that really got me moving was how they could talk so much sense into each other. When one of them was being irrational, the other would just have a talk with them and that’s it! Like whuuut? They just sit down, have a talk, then they’re over it. There’s only one case throughout the whole book where they end their feud sourly. But let’s not think that much of it, they probably made up the day afterwards. Such lovebirds. Now that I think of it, Park’s parents somehow probably got reminded of their own love and the hardship it much have brought, when they see Eleanor & Park. They were probably rooting for them. Sigh… The part where Park’s father, Jamie, tried to make Eleanor feel like home just moved me so much. He just made it so clear that he actually cared enough to offer his house for her.
The thing about this book is that the characters are very ordinary. As many other reviewers have said, they’re not perfect and flawless. Eleanor is described as fat, with big, crazy, red hair. Park, on the other hand, is described as an Asian dude, who’s neither on the sports team, or in popular gang. They’re regular students who just exists. The magic is in their love for one another. Despite thinking that 10th graders (aka. sophomores) wouldn’t know panncake about love, I do think that they love each other. They are, however, very, and I mean VERY, awkward and uncomfortable with each other. The awkwardness surely reached out and pulled me right into it. The awkwardness demands to be felt.
Growing up where I’ve never seen real bullying take place makes it hard for me to imagine how it is. I’ve seen movies, of course. But I’ve never experienced it or witnessed it first hand. With that being said, the extreme bullying Eleanor experienced was somehow surreal, at least for me. I do believe that such kind of bullying probably exist, but I felt that it was somehow weird how Tina (the bully) and Steve (Park’s “friend” and neighbor who also was in on the bullying) just helped Eleanor at the end of the book when she had to run away from her stepdad. Like, I thought you hated her? It just seemed unrealistic, I think. But I’m glad that they helped her, nonetheless.
Speaking of which. Her stepfather, Richie, should have drunk driven and crashed into a tree or something. Holy shit, I hate that man. I couldn’t wait for him to just get into an accident or overdose on something. What a lowlife. I hated the fact that Eleanor mom couldn’t do anything about it. What a waste of life. I’m glad that they eventually got out of the house. Thank goodness for that.
All in all:
Recommendation: I would recommend this book. It’s a lovely love story and all, but I don’t know. You have to be prepared for some feels…
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars (I actually feel very conflicted and wants to give it something between 3.5 and 4. Mostly because it gave me such heartache at the end, and because she freaking used 10th grade instead of sophomore (10th graders are like 15 years old here in Norway. But I decided to give it 4 stars since the story actually was very well written.)
UP NEXT: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins