Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Eleanor & 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 misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
By now, you've probably read about Eleanor & Park or at least heard about the book. It's made waves all across the blogosphere... So my friend and I decided to read this one together, and I decided I would share my email to her with you all because... hell, maybe you're still curious or debating whether to read this one. But debate no more: read it! Love it! Enjoy :).
Now I know why everyone was saying it broke their hearts.
I know you don't like spoilers, so I'm really hoping you're only reading this if you've finished...
...but the plot twist?
Wow. So unexpected. And so powerful. And so *insert spoiler here*
Okay, so originally I thought, hmm, this book feels a bit long. I'm not overly fond of the high school narrative and while I liked that Park / Eleanor had complicated school dynamics and that they didn't really like each other at the start - which lent a lot to the realism - I thought the book was slow. But it didn't matter that it was slow, because the writing, while simplistic, is so beautiful. I love that she switched from their perspectives, even for small lines to cement whether Eleanor / Park did X and X, falling in line with our expectation. And I counted. 15 pages have been ear-marked. So many quotes. So many beautiful descriptions. You know what it really reminds me of? Gayle Forman's work, which makes sense because she blurbed the front. But there's this underlying truth in the narrative that I've felt mostly with Forman's work. John Green has a bit of that, but his seems much more explicit with all the metaphors he throws around.
Such a simple premise but so well executed.
I loved that both of their families had both happy and terrible moments, because then it was less of type-casting, you know? Although I am a bit undecided as to how I feel on some of the characters... Some stereotypes were explored but disowned (i.e. cultural portrayal of Asian men as asexual) while others were just kind of left there (i.e. Eleanor's friends; my friends would probably not be pleased with DeNice and Beebi's portrayals).
On a different but related note, I loved that Eleanor is big. That sounds strange to say, but I've noticed that a lot of the girls with larger bodies either seem to be useless sidekick or a bully. It's a prevalent stereotype in middle-grade fiction, for sure. Percy Jackson -> Clarice. In Bridge to Terabithia, I forgot what her name was... Janice? Those two examples come immediately to mind, but there's a lot more... And anyway, I think that being slim is considered a part of the "default." (White, Christian protag. unless otherwise specified.) And I think that having someone like Eleanor contributes to diversity in a different way than is usually discussed.
I also don't usually love full-out descriptions of the characters, but I loved them here... They were so Eleanor, so Park. And they were so integral to that feeling. As John Green wrote, what it's like to be young and in love. And so without the usual cynicism. There is some cynicism, but mostly there is hope. And goodness.
Okay, I will stop now.