I know I’m late when it comes to Eleanor & Park. It has been out for ages and received rave reviews, enough reason for me to check it out. If you are like me and are late to the party, be sure to check out this review. If you have already read it a million years ago and want to agree/disagree with me after reading this, be my guest! This review will be spoiler free, as I am nice like that.
Eleanor & Park: the story
Because I am terrible at summarising, I have just taken the official summary:
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.
Eleanor & Park is a story about teenage romance, and as such, you need to be able to deal with teenage romance. We can probably all remember our first love. We remember what it was like when they looked at us, or touched us. This story if filled with descriptions of how two teenagers experience love for the first time. Therefore, it is filled with sappy romance and descriptions of how beautiful they both are. Naturally, they do not seem to like themselves as much, but that seems like a very teenage thing to do. Either way, if you cannot handle it when teenagers describe in detail how they want to suck each other’s faces off, this book might be too much for you. I have to say that at times I thought it was slightly annoying. However, the characters are genuinely sweet, so it is not a deal-breaker.
The story is read from the perspective of both Eleanor and Park. I think this was a very good choice as it stopped the story from becoming dull. Eleanor might think Park is perfect, but Park is insecure too and vice versa. By reading from their different points of view, you do not get the issue that made a book like Twilight annoying for me. Nobody is perfect and nobody can deal with 300+ pages filled with swooning. Eleanor might be crazy about Park, but she has a terrible stepfather. He tries his best to make her life miserable. She thinks Park has the perfect life, but Park has his own issues he struggles with. It makes the main characters come alive much more than when one of them would only serve the purpose of love interest. These are well-rounded characters.
However, not all characters were as well-rounded. I got the sense that some minor characters, such as Eleanor’s stepfather, were just bad. Even the worst people have a reason for being who they are. While I know that we see these characters through the eyes of the leads, it would have been nice to find out some reason why he was like that. Furthermore, I thought Park’s best friend Cal had no other reason to be there, other than for Park to be able to shun him. He just disappeared which was a bit strange.
I have only read one Rainbow Rowell book before this, but I do enjoy her writing style. It is not too complicated and easy to read which is good when you just want to get lost in a story. Eleanor and Park’s voice were very similar, but that did not bother me that much.
While Eleanor and Park is a book that is aimed at teenagers, it is still a fun read when you are a little older. The main characters are endearing and the story is very sweet. That said, if you have never read a Rainbow Rowell book before, I recommend starting with Fangirl before reading this one.