I had been looking forward to reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell for quite some time. I had been hearing about it everywhere. It was totally the book of the moment. And everyone kept singing its praises. I knew I needed to get my hands on it.
And then I read it. And I was a disaster. This book completely ripped me apart, you guys. My heart was squeezed and beaten. There was raw emotion all over the place. Uncontrollable feels...oh, the feels...
One extraordinary love.
...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.
...He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she 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.
I'll admit that in the beginning I was confused. I just couldn't figure out what all the hype was about. It wasn't awful, but I wasn't enamored from the start.
And then it grew on me. And I realized what a wonderful book it really was. And then I nearly cried. Nearly.
I will admit that Eleanor's life made me feel wildly uncomfortable. I felt so awful for her and at the same time I was more or less on the edge of my seat waiting for bad things to happen to her. I just wanted to rescue her...get her away from it all. I wanted to pull her mother aside and tell her what a horrible choice she had made. Ugh. It was just so painful. Heart-wrenching. It was almost too much.
But Eleanor's character was a driving force for the book. I felt that she was written much bolder and much more thoroughly than any other character, including Park. I got to know her. And that made my heart ache.
What really made this book was the way it was written. Seriously. That sounds ridiculous to say, but it's completely true. You see, the relationship between Eleanor and Park is special, but not because it is a first love, not because it is a high school romance, and not because they come from two completely different worlds. That's all been done before. It's special because of the narrative. It's a different point of view than most YA novels, in a sense. The language is different, more internal, and more real. There were a lot of things in their relationship that made me a bit nostalgic about my first love. When a book makes you feel that connected and drags you back into your own past like that, you know it is doing something right.
The ending was a tough one. Depending on the reader, it either made or broke the book. It's one of those that you either have to love and hate. In my case, I struggled for a few minutes. I sat there staring at the last page, just absorbing everything and letting the weight of it all settle in. And then I made my decision. It hurts. The whole book just hurts. But it's good.
There is some language throughout the book. While I feel that it appropriately sets the scene and deals with teenage points-of-view, some readers may find it crass and overwhelming.
It had its flaws, but inherently it just holds some kind of power. It's one of those monumental books to define a generation. It's one that becomes a part of you. The sheer relatability that it has to real life is overwhelming. I was completely flooded with memories just based on individual sentences or small, seemingly insignificant details from Eleanor and Park's thoughts about one another. I was expecting a lot from this book based on the hype. In the beginning, I didn't think it really lived up to it, but when all was said and done, it delivered.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I choose which books I review on my blog and on my Goodreads profile. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews. My reviews are always honest...I never lie about books. My opinions are my own and may be positive or negative depending on my feelings about a specific piece. Keep in mind, just because I may like or not like a book may not mean that you will feel the same way.