Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park 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. (via)

My Thoughts:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Seriously, this is what reading Eleanor & Park is like, just an avalanche of feelings and emotions. And tears. So.
Many.
Tears.
After reading and reviewing Fangirl, I couldn't wait to get my  hands on another Rainbow Rowell book. My next pick was Eleanor & Park, and I was not disappointed. It gave me so many feelings I don't even know where to start.
Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986 and is the story of Eleanor, the weird new girl in school, and Park, the boy who doesn't really feel like he fits in. The story starts out on the school bus, where the awkward new girl has no place to sit. Park reluctantly offers her the seat next to him. Over time the two slowly go from ignoring each other to becoming friends and then... more.

The story is told with a dual perspective, with both Eleanor and Park narrating their own point of view of events. I think this was done brilliantly by Rainbow Rowell. Each voice is so unique and different. Park is a romantic with a great friends, family, and home life and Eleanor is a bit of a cynic, afraid to let herself love – and for good reason, her home life is very different from Park’s, and she is frequently bullied by the mean girls at school. Despite their differences,  you can see how they actually have a lot in common, and it's nice to watch their love grow out of mutual affection and shared interests. Like in Fangirl, the characters feel real and fully realized. I loved these characters, they are quirky and weird and real. You just want to hug Eleanor and give Park a high five for being awesome, or at least I did.

This book was heartwarming, and touching. I felt such a personal connection to this story and these characters. I don’t do spoilers but I do highly recommend this book. However, I agreed with a lot of the negative points Laura made in her Goodreads review here regarding historical inaccuracies and how the issue of race was handled. Here’s a quote:

Furthermore, while a version of racism does appear in the novel in the form of bad kung-fu jokes and “You are Asian therefore you must be Chinese” assumptions, it seems deliberately placed within the historical framework. As Rainbow Rowell stated in a Publisher’s Weekly interview 
“The neighborhood Eleanor and Park live in is the neighborhood I grew up in. And at that time, it was white and racist.” Therefore, the author was attempting to portray racism as it was, as if that racism is limited to that time frame.
Unfortunately, … that 1986 version of racism is alive and well in 2013, and I seriously resent the placement of it in a historical novel as if it no longer exists today.
This is something that I totally agree with, having experienced this kind of racism as a kid in the 90s (being biracial myself). In spite of agreeing with many of her points, I realize that Eleanor & Park is fiction, and YA fiction at that. I don’t expect the books I read to be 100% accurate always. I know that in fiction, there is always the need to suspend reality if you truly want to immerse yourself in the story and the world the author has created. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect YA novel. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a perfect novel, in any genre or age range for that matter. However, this book comes close. I loved every minute of reading Eleanor & Park’s story. It was really lovely and I highly – HIGHLY – recommend it. Highly.

3 comments:

  1. I've read lots of good things about this and Fangirl. I have Fangirl on my to-read list, and hope to try it out next year sometime. If I like it, I'll probably read this too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fangirl was really enjoyable. I hope you like it!

      Delete
  2. I am still in the throes of composing a blog post/review of this book. I absolutely loved it! I felt much the same way that you did about it!

    ReplyDelete