Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eleanor & Park Review

I knew this book was popular, but I put off reading it for a long time.  I think this is mainly because the blurb didn't jump out at me. 

Two misfits.
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.

It's a peculiar blurb, am I right?

 "There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises... Park."  
It makes me snigger a little bit.

But, what is appropriate about the blurb is that it gives the correct impression that the book is character-driven, not plot-driven. The story follows two teenagers who ride the bus to and from school together, who have wound up sitting on the same bench seat.  Initially antagonistic, they wind up getting to know each other and falling in love for the first time.

I read quite a few reviews of Eleanor & Park before I jumped into it, and for some reason I got the idea that the book was going to be sad.  Maybe I have a high tolerance, I don't know, but I didn't get that impression at all.  The book details Eleanor's nightmarish home life, but the book never wanders into bleakness. 

In fact, I laughed out loud, loudly, more than a few times while reading the book.  Rowell's voice is an effective mixture of snarky and earnest, that simultaneously amuses and moves.  I sucked down the book as quickly as I could read it — it is immensely readable.  

The book is a straight-forward romance, but defies many stereotypical, harlequin-esque conventions of romance genre. Most prominently, both Eleanor and Park are described as being realistically bodied, meaning that Eleanor is not a delicate flower and Park is not a towering oak tree.  In fact, the book dwells upon issues of gendered body perception and appearance at great length. For instance, Eleanor finds that she dislikes make-up.  Park, however, discovers that he likes it. On himself.  Bold move, Rainbow Rowell.

The weakness of the book, for me at least, is that it did devolve into saccharine sweetness, more than my taste can appreciate. However, I do get that the book means to describe the intensity of adolescent first love.  It does so very effectively. 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Eleanor & Park. I'm not sure if I'll return to the book itself, but I am definitely interested in reading more of Rainbow Rowell's work.

Four out of five north stars.


  1. It is a bit of sad. Eleanor's life is hardly the easiest, but Park's life in contrast, is like Disneyland compared to Eleanor's. I loved this one!

    1. It's true, Park has troubles with his dad, but you can feel the love he has for his son, even if Park doubts it, himself. I really liked Park's Dad. You could tell he wanted the best for his family, and helped them in the best way he knew how. Have you read any more Rainbow Rowell?

  2. I keep hearing so much about Rainbow Rowell, but I haven't yet picked up any of her books.
    I'm glad you enjoyed this one, it'll give me more incentive to pick up one of her books. Right now, I have my eye on Fangirl. Hoping to get to that one soon!

    1. Yeah, from what I can tell from one book, she's a solid writer. Fangirl is on my TBR list as well.

  3. I understand what you mean about how it never wanders into bleakness but I found the ending quite sad, in fact, I cried!.. but then again I'm quite a romanticist and I always root for the characters a little more than I should. But I loved reading a different perspective on the book. I really liked the diversity of the characters. Some people were actually a little confused by the fact that Park was korean aswell as the whole make up thing. Like, they thought that because Rowell herself is white that she should write white characters. She gets asked on her blog why she made Park Korean and her answer is essentially "Because he was".. It's weird what people find issues with.. ANYHOW! I'm rambling when really all I wanted to say was great blog, Ellen :D Nice one x

    1. Thanks, girl! :D I know the ending was ambiguous, but I really do think they'll wind up together. For one, Rainbow Rowell is planning to write a sequel, if I'm not mistaken. And two, she wrote him "just three words" and it makes him smile. You know those three words could only be "I love you" or, possibly (as the blogosphere has speculated) "I'm Han Solo"