Eleanor & Parkby Published 26 Feb 2013
|Eleanor & Park.pdf|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
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.
"Eleanor & Park" Reviews
Should I break out in song and dance to "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep?" One lonely star. I'm just as surprised as you are, considering I just KNEW going into Eleanor & Park that I would love it, love it, love it. What reason would I have to believe otherwise? Almost all of my friends loved this book and have sworn fealty to the Goddess of Feels and Might, Rainbow Rowell. And I get it because she is a pretty awesome person and I think she is totally lovely. So trust me when I say I REALLY wanted to love this book. In fact, I am blindsided that I didn't, saddened that I can't join the Eleanor & Park Kool Kidz Fan Club and disappointed at such a disjointed reading experience.
Random Reasons Why I Didn't Like This Book:
1. The Romance
My main issue stems from the romance between Eleanor and Park. I just... didn't get it. Though, that's not for lack of trying because I had many arguments with Adult Me and Teen Me in my brain. Teen Me remembers the infatuation of meeting someone exciting and experiencing all those special moments for the first time. However, with Eleanor and Park, it was entirely unrealistic and unbelievable.
Park went from "God! Just sit the fuck down, Eleanor!" to "God, she has incredibly soft hands."
Eleanor went from "That stupid Asian kid" to "He's so pretty. I love his hair! I want to eat his face!"
The next thing I know, Park is telling Eleanor that he's in love with her, how he can't imagine being without her, that she's IT for him. Then Eleanor is telling him she doesn't breathe when she's away from him. Adult Me was not on board because the romance moved entirely too swiftly for my feelings to catch up with the events that were taking place. No, I take that back. "Swiftly" would indicated that there was some sort of actual pacing involved, but that was absent. One day they disliked each other and the next they were holding hands and proclaiming their love.
I remember listening to that part while I was out on a morning run, and I had to stop and rewind because I legitimately thought I missed an entire chapter. But then I realized that I hadn't and I argued with myself.
Adult Me: *twitch*
Teen Me: Yeah, but remember when you thought you were in love with that guy and how you were going to marry him?
Adult Me: Yes...
Teen Me: So obviously they're not going to be together forever and ever and gallop into the sunset, but you can't discount those feelings.
Adult Me: *gumbles* I KNOW THAT. But I also never wanted to eat a guy's face...
Teen Me: Please don't tell me I grow up without a heart.
Adult Me: ...
2. The Historical Background
Eleanor & Park takes place in Omaha, 1986, where there's racial tension. Park is half white and half Korean. He spends most of his time trying not to be noticed by other kids at school and struggling with his own insecurities over his mixed heritage. Yet, oddly, throughout the entire novel, Park doesn't encounter any racism. Apart from a few brief monologuing sessions about his classmates thinking he was Chinese, Eleanor's off-hand "stupid Asian kid" remarks and Park's own dislike for, in his opinion, looking too feminine, there wasn't anything that felt accurate.
Park's character had so much more potential that was not utilized. I was hoping for something more from his development regarding how he viewed himself and his mother. Perhaps a certain level of acceptance or resolve would have been appropriate.
There were also two black girls who befriend Eleanor, but even they don't seem to face any racism in this predominately white neighborhood. It was like Rowell deliberately tip-toed around them and instead threw in a reference to the community being offended by a black boy getting a white girl pregnant. Strangely, the only one who seemed to get picked on was Eleanor. I do think it's awesome that this novel had diversity, something that is sorely missing in YA, but I wasn't buying what Rowell was selling.
At the same time, Rowell never let you forget that this book was set in the 80s since Eleanor & Park is overloaded with pop culture references on almost every other page. (I admit to chuckling to the 867-5309 reference.) Still, we also never forgot Park was Asian with Eleanor constantly referencing it in her narration to the point that I started feeling uncomfortable.
3. The Narration
I wasn't a huge fan of the back and forth narrative and found that it annoyed me more than anything. This is where I wonder if my rating is more an indication of how I felt about the audio vs. the actual story. I disliked both of the narrator's voices. The parts of Eleanor's dialogue that was "snarky" wasn't portrayed with the right kind of emotion. Park's narration was slightly better, but the narrator, Sunil Malhotra, bored me to tears with his monotone reading and unbelievable voice for Eleanor.
4. The Story
I'll be honest and admit that it's possible that I didn't "get" this book. It may have just gone way over my head. Why? Rowell tried to cram a lot of story and situations into one little book and it didn't work for me. Before going into Eleanor & Park I was told that the ending was heartbreaking, but I didn't feel that at all. Rowell relies on Eleanor's grim family life to spark sympathies from readers and I can see how this works and why it's marketed to John Green fans. However, the ending relies on your connection to their romance to feel the heartbreak. The problem with that was, by the end, I wanted to know what became of Eleanor's mom and siblings, but the focus was instead on her feelings for Park and letting him go. Eleanor spent a good amount of the story in this terrible environment, feeling these feelings and when I genuinely wanted to know her feelings about everything, all I get is a freaking post card and the book ends. Since the romance was doing absolutely nothing for me, I needed for the plot to come in and rescue this book. It did not.
I'm not saying this was a terrible book. Not by a long shot. It's clear that this story has touched a lot of people and I wouldn't go as far to not recommend it, but I also think this is a bit overhyped. I went in with really high expectations, thinking I was going to be blown into next week by the awesome. Instead, I'm walking away with feelings brewing a special pot of "meh."
Even still, I'm holding out hope for Fangirl...
More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
If you've experienced that first love - that heart-wringing, soul-squeezing, crush-the-air-out-of-your-lungs-whenever-you're-apart first love - this book will bitch slap your feels all to hell.
I love it. I love its warmth and its vibrancy, its heartache and its pain, its humor, its meanness, the ugliness, the beauty, the crying, the laughter, the sarcasm. I love Eleanor and I love Park, and I love that there's still a tiny chance for them...and for everyone whose first love was torn away. Even if you never see that person again, they change you in ways that no one else will ever understand. They will always, always hold that little piece of your heart that no one else will ever be able to touch.
I love you, Rainbow Rowell, for giving me this. Thank you.
HOLY BATMAN THAT ENDING. I'M A MESS. THAT HURT, BUT IT DIDN'T AT THE SAME TIME. WHAT IS THIS FEELING EVEN? NYEAAHHH.
I've often said that nobody should write for teens who doesn't remember what it was like to be one. Rainbow Rowell remembers, and has captured it beautifully in this book.
“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you."
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
"I don't think I even breathe when we're not together," she whispered.
Three stars is not a wholly negative rating but I have to admit that I'm disappointed with this one. Eleanor & Park has enjoyable parts, but the only real difference I can see between this and Pushing the Limits is that the characters in the latter are meant to be hot. Which could have been interesting because I've always preferred reading about the so-called freaks, losers and ugly people, but these two books follow the same generic pattern of teen love stories with a whole ton of behind-the-scenes angsty issues.
Though this one was less entertaining.
It's 1986. Eleanor is the new girl and she is not only genetically made to look like a victim but she does herself no favours by pairing her looks with a bizarre fashion sense. Having nowhere to sit on the school bus, she takes a seat next to the clearly reluctant Park. Park is half-Korean in an extremely white school, but he is given enough respect by the popular kids to help him get by. His home life, unlike Eleanor's, is pretty much perfect apart from a bit of badgering by his dad.
Slowly over time, these two individuals develop a relationship that is formed around stuff like reading comics together and exchanging mix tapes. And other nerdy things like Star Wars and Shakespeare - which I could easily relate to. I think one of the major problems I had with this book is that I failed to get a sense of the attraction between them. Their relationship to me seemed more suited to friendship than love. The progression from reluctant bus partners to friendship was natural in the story, but I then felt that the jump from that to romantic and/or sexual feelings was too fast and unbelievable.
Not only that, but where I felt the start of their relationship avoided the usual cliches and did something a bit different (like the way their relationship begins without them speaking to one another), I felt that once they were "together", it quickly dissolved into the usual sweet nothings and thoughts like "I'll die if I never see him again" after knowing each other for a few weeks.
This isn't instalove, but it's silliness. Or perhaps I really am just a cold-hearted, unromantic person. And I also didn't like the way chubby Eleanor receives self-validation through Park:
“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”
I did like the well-rounded feel of both characters, though. The author gave them many different levels, making them experience a range of emotions in a realistic way. I also thought the darker element of this novel were mostly handled well. Eleanor's home life is revealed gradually in a frightening way. But it does just make it easier to compare this book to Pushing the Limits. And I don't like it when serious issues like domestic violence are used to fuel the love angst and create a Romeo and Juliet kind of forbidden love scenario. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Eleanor & Park will be great (hopefully) for fans of quirky, nerdy romance stories with an underlying dark angsty side, and for those who love nerdy references. If you don't usually like young adult romance and were eying this up as possibly being the book to change all that... you'll probably be disappointed. It has good parts, but it's not that different from anything else out there.
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