Hello, everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus, but I am back and ready to review some books! First up is a young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor & Park.
I came across this recently published young adult novel because my favorite author John Green recommended it via Twitter. The great amount of trust I have in this man is evident by how quickly I purchased the book on Amazon, regardless of what it was about or what the cover looked like. In many cases, I advise this method of purchasing books because it’s judgment-free and surprising. You never know what you might get! You could buy the best book you’ve ever read in your life for the low price of eight dollars. But then again, you could be disappointed and left wishing that you spent those eight dollars on something else. I felt both ways with Eleanor & Park… and I say that grudgingly.
The good thing about E&P is that I couldn’t stop reading it. I started it with the original intent of solely reading it at the gym (which, let’s be honest, isn’t frequently), but I quickly broke that rule. I finished the book in three days flat! I’m not even sure what it was about the book that made me read it so quickly and eagerly. It surely wasn’t the banter between Eleanor and Park because there really wasn’t any. I think it may be that lack of romantic banter, however, that made me fall in love. In the beginning, the lack of conversation draws attention to the growing love between them, which is something I enjoyed. Little comments about how “cool” Eleanor thought Park looked among other things made the book enjoyable. The book is broken into parts seen from Eleanor’s and Park’s perspectives which becomes extremely interesting when their perspectives collaborate on the same scene. If nothing else, the broken-up perspectives of the characters add to the endearing qualities of their budding relationship. The way their relationship is constructed, I felt like I was in the relationship myself, receiving comics and mixed tapes from the awesome dude who let me sit next to him on the bus. I felt like reading Watchmen because Eleanor got to read it with Park. I was thrown back into the throes of love and it felt enthralling. Rowell sure knows what it was like to be a youngin’ in love. She gets it.
But, of course, love isn’t all secret hand-holding, hugs, and kisses in the dark by your grandparents’ RV. Rowell makes this unlikely relationship seem real by adding in threats on either side of the relationship. For Park, the problem originally seems to be his father’s set-in-stone way of seeing the world and living in that world. As the book progresses, this becomes less so in order to fully focus on the real problem in the relationship: Eleanor’s living situation. She lives in a small house with her four younger siblings, her mom, and her stepdad Richie. Needless to say, things aren’t ideal. Secrets are held, Park is Tina because Eleanor can’t be seen with a boy, and everything goes to crap. Oh, and domestic violence. Five kids sleeping in one tiny room. A bathroom without a door. You can probably figure out the rest.
Sounds like a pretty solid story, right? Well, I would say it was for the most part. One of the things that made me happy I bought the book was the fabulous sentences Rowell crafted. In this way, she was very much like John Green to me. However, she didn’t have these strokes of genius more than five times, and there was barely any room for humor. I guess sometimes love has to be serious. I was uncomfortable with the seriousness, which may be one reason the book doesn’t sit well with me. For a story that sought to challenge cliches, I didn’t feel like it delivered those challenges successfully. The title couple gave into the Romeo and Juliet cliche they so desperately wanted to escape. They were happy, they were sad, they were sappy, they were angry. I guess, above anything else, Rowell was trying to portray the couple as real. I guess I understood that, but I was more ticked off than admiring of Rowell’s attempt.
Perhaps it was also the characters who made me dislike the book to an extent. The character of Eleanor kept me constantly screaming phrases like HE LOVES YOU OKAY HE’S SAID IT A MILLION TIMES and God you’re so stupid. And maybe that’s because that’s who Eleanor is, but I was still annoyed by her lack of likability. Park, on the other hand, just made me want to slap him. His overly-sappy disposition that magically appeared after the first half of the book looked plain pathetic against the rough-n-tough demeanor of Eleanor. There was also a lack of strong supporting characters that was a little disconcerting; characters like Kim and Cal were mentioned occasionally, but eventually they disappeared into thin air as if they were never introduced. Tina and Steve? Same with them. The focus was completely on the ever-frustrating and all-encompassing Eleanor and Park, which I guess was Rowell’s point. If you can’t tell that I was peeved by these characters, then read the book yourself. Talk to me later. You’ll get it.
I will say that, overall, this book makes sense. I may have outlined what made me happy and upset with the book, but really that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Rowell gets teens. Eleanor gets upset with Park an irrational amount of times over irrational things: hello, have you met us females? That makes total sense. The focus of the book was on the couple at stake, friends disappeared from the action: that happens in almost all first loves. I certainly know it happened in mine. Park was completely head-over-heels in love with Eleanor and voiced it a million times over: the kid was in love and what better way to express that than to say it? First loves are reckless and endearing, timeless and unforgettable. Park’s actions at the end of the book signify that so well. Their relationship was short-lived, but the memory of each other continued to grow even after a series of unfortunate events. Eleanor and Park portray love as not being a “forever” thing, but perhaps a “now” thing. They exemplify pure and unabated love. And who doesn’t like that? So after all that blabber, I’ll say yes. You should read this book. If not for me, read it for the feeling of complete engrossment in a love story you can believe.
Rating: 8.5 / 10
Also, if you enjoyed the book, I recommend you look up some fanart. It’s pretty darn adorable and it brings on the feels. You’re welcome. DFTBA!