Thursday, June 05, 2014

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: February 26th 2013
Pages: 328
Genre: Young Adult historical romance
Source: Bought
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I know I'm pretty much the last person in the YA blogosphere to read Eleanor & Park, so saying this is probably pointless, but if you haven't read it, you need to - it really is as amazing as everyone has said. It's so many things that I don't even know how to describe it: it's weird and awkward and beautiful and just perfect.

The description focuses a lot on the romance, but what I loved the most were Eleanor and Park as individual characters. Eleanor's story had me hooked right away: what she's been through and is still going through is so horrible, both with her family and with the bullying at school. The way that Eleanor describes what happens at her house is so subtle and honest, making it very realistic and even scarier. I wish we'd gotten to know more about the family's past, especially about Eleanor's relationship with her mother before she started dating Richie, and about Eleanor's father. But in a way I appreciated that this is just a snapshot from Eleanor's life. At first I didn't know if I would be able to relate to Eleanor, but I grew to care for her so much over the course of the novel: her vulnerability is so honest and so sad and I just wanted to get her out of this world and make everything right for her.

Park is a great character, too. His issues aren't as glaring and as in-your-face horrible as Eleanor's, but they're fascinating nonetheless. His family dynamics are really interesting: I loved reading about his issues with his dad, but also seeing how his parents step up and do the right thing when it matters most. Park is kind of an ass at first, but I still understood him, and I loved seeing his character growth over the course of the novel.

Then, of course, there's the romance. The way that their relationship develops is very subtle and unconventional. At first, I didn't know how to feel about it: in a way, it's cute, but it still bothered me that their fascination with each other begins way before they ever have a real conversation. Even once they're already together, they're relationship is based more on Park comforting Eleanor by means of distraction, rather than them actually talking about what is going on. This is something that would have ruined most fictional relationships for me, but somehow, it works in Eleanor & Park. Their connection seems real despite this lack of communication, and it makes it even better when Eleanor finally admits to Park what has been going on. I don't even want to call this a romance because Eleanor and Park's connection goes so much deeper than that. Their relationship is unlike any I've read about, and it's just so good.

I could see how some people might be disappointed by the ending, but I for one loved it. Yes, it's sad, but it fits the story. I love melancholy endings like this one, sad but also kin of hopeful, and I always appreciate when stories end in a realistic way rather than unnaturally happily. 

The only issue I have with this book is the cover. The idea is cute, but it really bothers me that Eleanor doesn't fit her description in the story. Cover-Eleanor is way too skinny and her hair is not crazy enough to be book-Eleanor, and I wish they hadn't mainstream-ized her like that. If this is what the cover designers did to her, I'm kind of scared to see what Hollywood will do to her in the movie version...

Like basically everyone else, I just loved this story so much. It's unique and depressing and hopeful and perfect. After this and Fangirl, I'm definitely a Rainbow Rowell fan, and I can't wait to see what she writes next!


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