Wednesday, November 27, 2013
REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Love Story
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Summary: For Eleanor and Park, it is far from love at first sight. Park thinks the crazy-haired, oddly dressed new girl looks like a victim waiting to happen, and the minute she steps on to their shared school bus he's proven right as the bullies zero in for the kill. Meanwhile, Eleanor is too concerned with her problems at home to think much about the "stupid Asian kid" who reluctantly scoots over to share his seat, cursing under his breath all the while. For days they share the seat in awkward, sometimes hostile silence. But then... Something changes. Soon, Eleanor is surreptitiously reading Watchmen comics over his shoulder and Park is making Eleanor mix tapes of his favorite bands. Slowly, tentatively a friendship develops and then friendship becomes something more. But love doesn't solve everything. Together they must face disapproving parents, mean-spirited classmates, and the dark truths Eleanor never wants Park to discover.
Celebrity Stamp of Approval: “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review
First Lines: "He'd stopped trying to bring her back. She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken-down déjà vu."
Tracy's Thoughts: I practically inhaled this book from start to finish. Told through the alternating perspectives of Eleanor and Park, it is a fast, engaging read that brings its characters to vibrant life. Both protagonists feel incredibly real, flawed yet wholly sympathetic. Though they come from different worlds, I completely bought into the idea that Eleanor and Park are destined to meet and fall in love. Yet even they have doubts that their love can last, especially considering their circumstances. Eleanor is keeping secrets from Park about her disadvantaged home life and abusive, skeevy stepfather, and Park's Korean-American mother is less than approving of Eleanor and her appearance. Plus Park has some difficulty coping with the shameless bullying some students at the school direct at Eleanor. (Though he adores her, he's also a little embarrassed by her at times.) And then there's Eleanor's own insecurities and her trouble believing that slender, calm Park is attracted to her chubby, difficult self. Suffice it to say, they have a lot to deal with, and every bit of it feels realistic and essential to the story.
Despite the undeniable dark side to this novel, it is also funny, heartbreaking, and extremely sweet. In many ways, the novel is like Eleanor herself: gritty and perhaps a little abrasive, but also extremely lovable. There is a good deal of profanity and crude language, but, to me, the language is authentic to the characters and place rather than gratuitous. And the dialog is smart and clever; it's no wonder John Green so enthusiastically recommends this book. Though it is solidly grounded in the period (did I forget to mention the book is set in 1986?), Eleanor and Park is a timeless, universal story of first love.