Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Book Series: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: ebook
Length: 320 pages

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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.

I’m not going to lie. It was the hype that drew me to this book. I had heard so so so much about it that i just had to read it to see if it was worth it. And I’m so glad I did. This was a fantastic story about the first love of two very lovable and very believable misfits — Eleanor & Park.

What i loved most about this story and these characters was their uniqueness. I think that Rowell did an excellent job putting together two characters who high school lives might not necessarily intersect if it wasn’t for their first encounter. Something as simple as a school bus not having enough available seats.

Eleanor is described as a “fat” girl with big red hair who wears oversize men's clothes and who most of the student populous disregards immediately upon their first impression of her. Park is a half-Asian teen, in an environment that doesn’t sound too ethically diverse, who can blend into the popular crowd without truly belonging to it. And if it wasn’t for that Park being one of the only people with an available seat, these two characters most likely would have never met, and thus, fallen in love. In the beginning, Eleanor is standoffish and rude, and Park is shallow and judgmental. But as they spend more time together on the bus and start to connect over a mutual love for comics, their relationship flourishes and an awkward romance begins.

Which another thing that I loved about this relationship. It felt so authentic. From what I remember, nothing about high school love is easy and both of the characters experience ups and downs which threaten to destroy the relationship before it's truly begun. This made Eleanor and Park fully-developed characters in my eyes, with the personality quirks and insecurities I remember so much about adolescence. I think Rowell took great care to make sure that she made this relationship seem as authentic as possible and not be cliched like a lot high school love stories.

Out of the two characters, it’s hard to pick a favorite. I really like Park. He kind of feels like an Asian John Cusack character. For me, he’s got Lloyd Dobler (from the 80’s teen flick Say Anything…) written all over him. Some of the things he does and says are just spot on for a character Cusack would have played at that time. But what I really appreciated about Park was how he saw Eleanor. He acknowledged everything about her — flaws and all — and saw her was a whole as simply beautiful. He didn’t pick her apart and love parts of her. He just loved Eleanor.

With Eleanor, I can completely step into her shoes from the way she felt about herself, how others say her and especially how she reacted to the way that other people saw her. I definitely cringed with her when she went to Park’s place for the first time and saw his mother’s negative reaction toward her. Oh my gosh, that takes me back in the worst way, lol. But all those things just make Eleanor so real, which makes me appreciate the story that much more.

I really enjoyed Rowell’s writing style. It’s pretty simplistic, which I think fit the story. I did feel as if there were two very distinct voices when switching back and forth between Eleanor and Park’s chapters. Everything about the way that she communicates what each character is thinking, what their experiencing just makes me feel like I’m “in it.” There were parts that made me laugh out loud and grin and there were parts that made me disgusted and empathize with Eleanor regarding her family situation, but overall I was fully engrossed from start to finish.

The only thing that frustrated me was the ending. I’m still not sure how I fell about it. Will have to do a reread.

This was my first book from Rainbow Rowell and it was a great experience. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants a refreshingly unique take on young love.

I will definitely be checking out more from Rowell’s works; next, I think, will most likely be Fangirl.

“Maisie smelled like an Avon lady, and she was made up like the whore of Babylon. They were definitely going to get caught. Talk about a house of effing cards. Jee. Zus.”
― Eleanor

“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.”
― Park

“You saved me life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I'm yours. The me that's me right now is yours. Always.”
― Eleanor

“Or maybe, he thought now, he just didn't recognize all those other girls. The way a computer drive will spit out a disk if it doesn't recognize the formatting. When he touched Eleanor's hand, he recognized her. He knew.”
― Park

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