Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Eleanor and Park


Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Modern Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 328
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: February 2013
First Line: "XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus."

Book Description from GoodReadsTwo 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.


My Review: Every so often I enjoy picking up a teen read so when I heard glowing reviews of Eleanor and Park (even from a library co-worker) I was thinking that I was going to get something along the lines of "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green (ie. a touching teen read that requires you to keep Kleenex at the ready).

While this book does focus on first romance it didn't have the emotion I expected nor did I have the connection to the characters that I was hoping to have.  The book follows the day-to-day lives of Eleanor and Park and it pieces together their little moments together as their relationship blossoms.  But I needed a bit more than sharing cassette tapes and rides on the bus to get invested in their lives and I needed the evolution of their relationship to be believable.  And it just wasn't.  Their relationship went from him swearing at her on the bus to them suddenly sharing music and holding hands.  This quickly morphed into them hating being apart on weekends and feeling like they can't breathe when they're apart.  I prefer to see their relationship evolve and these were just too many leaps to be believable. 

I also had a hard time picturing these two together.  Park is a nice guy and I liked being able to see his family life but I can't see what Eleanor brings to the table in their relationship other than a negative attitude.  I get that she has a lot of reasons to be negative but even if the author had given me one little glimmer of what Park saw in Eleanor I think it would have helped me better understand their attraction.

The pace was rather slow and meandering throughout the book as it focuses on the small moments Eleanor and Park share.  There was no big 'wow' moment between them and yet the author still managed to keep me interested (no easy feat).  Unfortunately towards the end, just as the pace and my interest picks up, the story abruptly ends - leaving me feeling like the final chapter was missing.  Literary skid marks.  

I.  Hate.  That.   

This was a hard book to review because while it definitely had things that I didn't like there were some moments that I really loved.  The biggest thing that I liked about this book was how the author brought some rather heavy issues into the forefront.  From bullying, self identity, abusive home lives and poverty there was a lot going on in this book.  I found Eleanor's family situation heartbreaking since she's been dealt a rather crappy lot in life.  While I was hoping to see more character development with Eleanor, at the same time I can see how her home life could contribute to her consistently negative attitude as well as her deep need to feel connected to someone who brings even the smallest iota of positivity into her rather bleak life.

Overall, this book about a couple of misfits held my interest even if it was a bit underwhelming.  While I applaud the author for bringing serious teen topics to the forefront, Eleanor and Park's relationship felt very disjointed and the disappointing ending negatively influenced my enjoyment of the book.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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