Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA/ Romance
Publication Date: 26th of February 2013 by Orion (Hachette)
Reminds me of: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
If I had to sum up Eleanor & Park in one word it would be cute. It was actually the same word used by the girl I tutor who urged me to read it. “YOU NEED TO READ IT!” When you hear that phrase your expectations are either sky high or extremely wary about the other person’s taste. Since her taste in books is pretty similar to mine I sat with the book in high hopes. The fact I loved it and went into it with such a positive frame of mind should be a testament of its greatness. How often do you go into a book with high hopes without getting disappointed?!
Eleanor & Park is the love story of two misfits. Initially the two are either annoyed or cautious of the other, but develop a quiet and mutual attraction to each other. Rowell captures young love so beautifully you feel yourself blushing beside Eleanor AND Park every time their relationship makes a significant (but baby) step. Their first words to each other were a big enough deal to elicit a YESSS FINALLY out of me.
Apart from love there are themes of family drama and individual identification.
Eleanor is not living in the ideal family environment. She loves her siblings dearly but her step-father makes living at home hell. She demonstrates courage standing up to him and other times falters in anxiety. Her fear is real and I felt myself gripping the pages tighter every scene Richie came into. Her eventual escape is bittersweet leaving behind her siblings and Park in order to escape Richie’s wrath. Her insecurities are reflected in her communication channels with Park. While she can’t express herself as eloquently as he can, she certainly feels the same way. Her character development reaches its epitome in the final sentence.
Leave it to the last minute.
When Eleanor sends Park that final post card we can see she’s finally found how to express herself. I love Rowell’s personal note on this milestone:
The important thing to know about that postcard is that Eleanor sent it. She worked through all her fear and anxiety and insecurity, and she reached out to Park. She sent him something that made him smile and feel wings fluttering in his chest.
Park, on the other hand, is living in a binary opposite household. He’s from a happy home. Rowell shows us how peril can strike even in the happiest environments. Park feels he is a misfit. It’s not till the end of the novel we understand he’s actually respected by the cool kids and an overall popular individual. But he doesn’t feel that. He feels alone and like no one can understand him. When he tries on his mums eyeliner for the first time we see him blossom. He feels like he’s found his footing, and there’s just something about the makeup that gives him a new found confidence. Of course his father sees this as something wrong. The point is your happiness is for you. Make decisions about yourself for yourself.
There’s a note from the author at the end of my book. It really wasn’t needed. I was perfectly content thinking the last three words on the back of that postcard from Eleanor to Park were I love you. But knowing there’s potential it could have been something else makes me want to knowwww. I did smile reading it and laughed that she wouldn’t even reveal to her mum the answer.
It’s that yearning for knowledge we all secretly crave. She can’t just give us a sunset and wedding bells because that implies that the characters are done. They’ve served their purpose for 300 pages and that’s it. But I love that she keeps us thinking. What comes next? A great book is one that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. If you’re still thinking about an ending days, weeks or months after, you’re still lingering meaning you’re still attached… meaning it was bloody brilliant.
As Rowell said: it’s the end of the book, and we’re beginning to leave the characters. Their story is about to come their own again”. She truly serves her purpose and constructs these characters that live out through the pages of Eleanor & Park, but perhaps continue on? It’s set in August 1986… are they together now? Maybe they never saw each other again? The point is they’re still floating around long after the last page.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It was one of those books you get annoyed at having to put down to deal with real life, but feel really excited knowing you still have more to go. I recommend to all YA readers and anyone who loves reliving the spark of young love.