Saturday, May 9, 2015
Book Review: Eleanor & Park
When I first started reading, I wasn't sure I would like Eleanor & Park. I'm not necessarily a huge romance fan. I used to be when I was in middle school and high school and refused to read much else. Often when I read YA romances as an adult I read it and think along the lines of the teenage me. As an adult I want to roll my eyes at the pining and giggling and sunsets and all that stuff, but the teenage me would have been all over it. I have to say that I never felt the urge to roll my eyes at anything in this book and I found that I wasn't just reading it for the teenage version of me, but for the adult version. Rainbow Rowell has written a love story that can transcend age barriers, even though it's focused on high schoolers.
Take two teenage misfits, put them on a bus full of high school mean kids, and make them sit next to one another. Eventually they'll become friends. Eventually they'll become more than friends. This is the story of Eleanor and Park. Eleanor has just moved back in with her mom, her brothers and sister, and her step dad who hates her. She just wants to disappear, and then Park notices her. Park's family is the opposite of Eleanor's, with two parents completely in love. Even though he feels like a disappointment to his dad, and he is nothing like his classmates, Park has a safe place. When he sees Eleanor, he dislikes her at first, but something about her pulls him towards her.
The dual perspective was done extremely well, keeping me equally intrigued by both characters. Eleanor's voice comes across so strong, yet quiet at the same time as she tries to disappear when she's at home. For Eleanor, I wanted her to be all right and I needed to know when she would truly be safe. For Park, I wasn't so much worried for him, as I was interested in his relationship with his mother and father.
I loved the pop culture references that were woven throughout. The story is set in the 80's and although the story isn't stuck there and inaccessible to teenagers, it definintely lives there with the Walkmans and punk music, Star Wars references, Watchman comics, and clothing choices. I loved these little bits!
In its way, this romance is sweet and innocent, with Eleanor & Park experiencing their first real loves, but it's also not for the younger reader. Even though there is no sex in the novel, there are some heavy make out scenes and a lot thinking about sex and touching. It's painted as something beautiful and wonderful because they care about one another so much and at no time did I consider it gratuitous or distasteful. I never even rolled my eyes at it for being cheesy. Also, there is a lot of language in this novel, so be aware of that if you are considering this for a younger reader.
If you have any interest in romances, or even if you don't because they just make you roll your eyes, then I suggest giving this one a try. Eleanor & Park will pull you in and make you want to follow both characters forever. You'll feel like Park when he realizes how much he loves Eleanor, ready to follow her across the sky.