Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Fiction/Contemporary
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 (Goodreads 2014)
The third book of Rowell’s I have read, and contrary to my reactions on Attachments and Fangirl- I was not overly impressed with Eleanor and Park, despite the months and months of hype it has received.
I should first say, to be fair, I do not read a lot of contemporary literature. I don’t personally sympathise or empathise (whichever way you want to look at it), with romantic stories. I enjoy romances, don’t get me wrong, but only really when it is the side plot of the story. So for example, the lunar chronicles, fangirl and meg cabot’s mediator series all have very, very prominent romance story lines, however there is always a “bigger issue” e.g. overthrowing a tyrannical queen, personal growth of character in a new environment under stress, and well…exorcising ghosts.
I went into E&P expecting a romance, and while it felt like I was reading the same book everyone else seemed to have read; I just could not connect at all. I certainly did not the darker surrounding issues, which was a very different tone for Rowell, from what I had previously of her work. However, I feel like she didn’t really address those darker issues, rather danced around them a bit. One brief mention of racism and it then it seemed to go away, which would have been unlikely for the time and setting (1980s America er…) and then there is the issues surrounding Eleanor’s family which I won’t discuss here due to spoilers.
I found the relationship between E&P unrealistic and at times, annoying. The magical formula of “Insta-love” just does not work for me. While there certainly were some cute scenes and nice lines of dialogue. To me, it just didn’t feel like there was anything deeper between the two characters, despite the almost instantaneous mental exclamations of how “annoyingly adorable damnit” the other character was.
Talking about the characters: I enjoyed Park as a character much, much more then Eleanor. While I felt pity for Eleanor and her situation, I felt quite frustrated with her. She would be completely horrible to Park and no matter what he tried to say to help her, he was always wrong. Always somehow making her mad. To me, Eleanor just seemed far too whiny and over-dramatic, and she took it out on Park- a lot.
My main issues with this book however, was that I felt like it danced around those darker issues, instead of actually tackling them. I just feel like if you are going to give one of your characters a disadvantaged and troubled background, don’t go in half heartedly. While I sympathise a lot of the factors which go into those situations (I really do), I really did not feel like anything got resolved in this book. I feel like this book didn’t actually gain anything by having that as a plot-driving device.
The book gets a three star rating because I did enjoy it enough to finish it. However, it isn’t one I will re-read and it is definitely my least favourite Rowell book.