Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
335 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.

“You can be Han Solo. And I’ll be Boba Fett, I’ll cross the sky for you.”

To say this book was adorable doesn’t quite cut it. It’s more like the relationship between Eleanor and Park was adorable but everything around them was a nightmare. Which I feel gave this book an emotional depth that wouldn’t have been there if it had just been a story of first love. And I felt that way all the way up until the end.
Eleanor has had a hard life. After upsetting her stepfather one day, her mother leaves her at a neighbors house to let him cool off. A year later, Eleanor is allowed to live with her family again. If you can really call it living. A family of 7, I believe, living in a two bedroom house with an alcoholic/abusive stepfather and a mother who’s too scared to do anything about it. They barely have money for food or clothes. That plus Eleanor’s weight and eccentric style make her an easy target when she starts a new school.
Park is the complete opposite of Eleanor. His family is together and intact, loving – even if his father is constantly pushing Park to be more. Even though he’s half Korean, Park is accepted for who he is. He has friends and has a very easy going attitude about everything. He loves comics and martial arts. And he’s not too sure about Eleanor when she steps on his bus.
They agreed about everything important and argued about everything else.
Rowell captures first love perfectly. From the awkward glances to the small touches to the butterflies that all lead up to the confusing feelings. Every aspect of that is covered here. And that’s what drove the book for me. I adored everything about Park – his family, his hobbies, the way he loved, just everything. Eleanor was a little harder for me to warm up to but I believe that’s just because of her harsh exterior. I felt for her, I really did. And I wanted to strangle her mother because what kind of mother just watches her children get treated the way they were? She lost all respect from me in the first few pages. I mean, she left her kid with a neighbor for over a year and during that time, moved away.
The underlying story of abuse was there throughout the entire book. And Eleanor’s stepfather, just ew. When the depths of his grossness are revealed, I felt icky. Like I needed a bath to get away from him. But when all that is revealed, that’s when I felt the story started falling apart. And it was literally just in the last few chapters. The ending was very unsatisfying for me. I’ve read some articles of the author talking about why she ended it the way she did, but it still doesn’t sit well with me. There’s too many questions. Too many open plot points. And then just the frustration of not knowing. Like literally, what the hell happened? I get wanting the readers to take away their own ending but I just feel…I don’t know, shorted. I didn’t even need a happy ending, just an ending.


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