Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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. –         from Goodreads.

My Rating:  ★★★

My Thoughts (may contain very minor spoilers):

 

Before I begin talking about this book I must admit that I absolutely adored Fangirl by the same author and I also really liked Landline, so maybe I went into this one with pretty high expectations…

…and now feel very conflicted about my opinions of the book.

On a positive note, I really liked the unconventional way in which the friendship between Eleanor and Park developed, the way they didn’t exchange a word for quite some time, instead indulging in their shared love of comic books and then a variety of music through mixtapes.
I loved the attention to detail, the fact that Eleanor treated the comics with such great care, not wanting to spoil their perfect pages.
They bonded over a love and exploration of books and music, which was a pleasure to read. I thought it was a novel and endearing way to begin a new friendship.

The book doesn’t shy away form some pretty serious themes, one of which is bullying at school, and my heart really went out to Eleanor who, in the early stages of the novel is victimised merely for being the new girl, a situation I imagine is all too true to life, and it made me feel really glad that she had her growing friendship with Park to provide her with at least some joyful moments throughout the school day.

Another fairly dark theme is domestic abuse. Whilst having a less than easy time at school, Eleanor also goes back at the end of the day to a pretty terrible home life, and it is only as the novel progresses that we realise just how bad her home situation really is, and yet again I found myself so glad that Park was there for Eleanor, and I loved the lengths he would go to to ensure she was safe and happy.

I was quite touched by moments of this novel, so, what made me less sure?
The Romance.
Yes, I’ve said I enjoyed it, and in part I did, but it just went a little bit too over the top.
Much as I can suspend my disbelief I just couldn’t buy into the way the feelings for each other were expressed. Eleanor says at one point she wants to eat Park’s face. Of course I don’t imagine she meant it literally, but, really? Or swooning because he was driving and changing lanes?!? I just can’t imagine people feeling that way or expressing themselves that way, even in the throes of first, young love. Maybe I’m too cynical, but it just didn’t ring true.
The other thing was the matter of the writing on the school books. Something about that revelation just seemed a little off to me, which I guess was the point, but it just didn’t seem feasible. It seemed like the petty sort of thing a classmate would do, rather than anyone else (am trying to avoid giving too much away here).

So, all this does leave me feeling a little torn about the book.
There were so many good parts, so much that I enjoyed, and I found the relationship between Eleanor and Park believable enough that the ending really did get to me. The closing stages were very emotionally written, and of course I was left wanting to know what the three words on the postcard were, but then the things which struck me in a less positive light really stayed with me too, making this a 3 star read for me.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. bornandread says:

    I completely agree – there were parts of the story that were absolutely wonderful – I loved how unconventional they both were for main characters, but I felt the same as you – some of the love story was just a bit much. I also thought it felt a bit ‘junior’ for want of a better word…

    Like

    • pagesandtea says:

      Yes, that’s exactly the right way to describe it, which I thought was a shame because until those over the top expressions of feelings I was really enjoying the way their relationship was developing.

      Like

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