Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Publication date: 26 February, 2013
St. Martin’s Press, Hardcover, 328 pages
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One extraordinary love.
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.
I’ve never been in love. But if I were asked to describe what first love would feel like, my answer would be, “Go read Eleanor & Park.” Before reading this book, I would never have guessed anyone could take the clichés of falling in love for the first time and spin them into such an endearing tale, like Rowell did. There were so many aspects of this story that made me laugh, heartbroken, and even at times caused me to nod fervently because I knew exactly how Eleanor and Park felt.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say Eleanor & Park had been a perfect novel, as there were areas that had not hit my hype-fueled expectations. However, it does have a certain truth to its plot and its characters; as if it had actually been written by a young adult. Since the author isn’t a young adult, it had definitely been a feat to write a book portraying so accurately what it feels like to be at that age—free yet restrained, on the cusp of adulthood.
All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. (p.111)
What I liked best about Eleanor & Park is that neither one of the protagonists had been conventionally attractive people. They weren’t even that pretty on the inside! But well, no one really likes stories about perfect people and that’s probably why this book have received so much praise. The doubts, insecurities, and problems the characters faced had been universal yet personal as they are the sort we usually think no one else but ourselves face.
The dynamics of Eleanor and Park’s relationship had also been utterly heart melting, and—I assume—spot on in showing young love. Despite being cynical about teenage romances ever lasting, Eleanor & Park had me completely convinced that theirs could lead to much more later on in life. Yes, they still go through the banality every young couple experiences but when it comes to the things that matter, Eleanor and Park had both been wise beyond their years.
Eleanor and Park made me want to hope they would last, despite the odds.
“There’s no reason to think we’re going to stop loving each other,” he said. “And there’s every reason to think that we won’t.” (p.237)
Unfortunately, this book also frustrated me sometimes. After finishing the novel, it left me with a bereft feeling; as if I was still waiting for the plot climax. Somehow, I had been expecting more. More emotional bits, more dire consequences, more substance. It vexes me to no end when such books that seem amazing lacks that little something you just can’t put your finger on.
Nonetheless, I wholly enjoyed Eleanor & Park and admired Rowell’s writing (to those unaware, her writing is simple yet provocative, in other words, complete awesome sauce). Although I don’t think it lived up to its hype, it was a fun and nostalgic read. If you’re pondering about whether to read this, I definitely think you should, but try not to let all the hype raise your expectations too high!