Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Synopsis: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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.
The first two-thirds of Eleanor & Park had me absolutely smitten with the book. It was a joy to read even only one page of Eleanor & Park. The story and romance were lovely and I couldn’t help but utterly fall in love with the characters of Eleanor and Park, our two misfit protagonist. You could say that I was just completely dazzled. But then I turned from being completely dazzled to being completely furious by the ending part of the book came.
Eleanor & Park is a story that tells of the romance between two misfits, Eleanor and Park. Eleanor being a misfit and always standing out because of her weight, bright red curly hair, awkwardness, and funky outfits. Park being a misfit because of the fact that he is the only Asian kid in the entire school. I was immediately struck with a feeling of love for these two characters. They felt vibrant and real.
And if the two leads themselves felt vibrant and real, the romance between them was a hundred times that. Rowell wrote an amazing romance that started as a reluctant sitting arrangement, to quick exchanges every now and then, to becoming a couple. Every small interaction, every little word exchanged, every time they listened to music or read comics together, only made Eleanor & Park shine brighter. It was all very sweet and lovey-dovey, and I can’t resist anything very sweet and lovey-dovey.
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
My heartstrings were also inevitably pulled when Eleanor and Park started to really help each other with their issues and learn to accept them. They became each other’s source of happiness. Park was Eleanor’s way of escaping her dysfunctional family and terrible school-life and Eleanor was the person who made Park feel comfortable in his own skin. I wouldn’t say that I am quite sure that this “first love” couple will survive, but it felt true.
Rowell’s handling of words in Eleanor & Park is a bit foul (swearing, some racism), because it aims to portray the way a number of teenagers think, and will no doubt offend some people. But personally, I thought it was gorgeous, and I loved it very much so. Yes, it could be foul, but it could also be beautiful with passages that made my heart beat faster.
I was sort of bursting with love for Eleanor & Park. I would still be bursting with love for it, if only there wasn’t the tedious, unneeded drama and butchering of Eleanor’s character toward the end of the story. The love story that Eleanor & Park contained was fantastic, if not perfect, for the first two-thirds of the novel, but the final chapters absolutely ruined it for me. I hated the lazily-written drama and couldn’t understand why Eleanor did what she did. Add to the mix an unresolved ending and you have me in rage.
Eleanor & Park could have been my favorite contemporary novel of the year of 2013 and maybe even all time. Really, it could have. The romance, cultural references, characters, and writing had me wholly enamored with the book. It’s just that I passionately despise the ending, which was horrible. The cute and fitting cover is a hundred percent perfect, though 😛