Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell | Rating: ★★★☆☆
As you all well know by now, Rainbow Rowell is on the fast track to be the next It-Girl author. The buzz for her novels is undeniable — she’s everywhere in the literature world; when people aren’t buzzing about her two young adult novels Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, they are discussing their anticipation of Landlines. Her novels go perfectly to the tune of many contemporary young adult novels and can be paired off with John Green’s work.
That being said, I had high hopes for the buzz worthy Eleanor & Park and looked forward to reading it due to its content. Perhaps, my hopes were too high for the novel and upon further inspection I’ll come around to the novel and see it as something different. But with my mindset, as it is now, I found one too many problematic things in the novel to fully love it. Flaws are common in literature and you come to expect that, yet for some things within the pages of Eleanor & Park I couldn’t really ignore.
I’m very, very torn on what rating I want to give this story. That isn’t to say it’s necessarily a bad story — it had moments that were more enjoyable than others and the writing is pretty solid. It’s got all the makings of a proper young adult love story and still keeps it true to life. I liked that Eleanor was relatable and that I could look back and see certain bits of myself in here. I liked that Park wasn’t like most leading males and grew so, so, so bloody much by the final pages. Rainbow, though her writing/views flawed during many moments, really put thought towards these characters and managed to keep the story crisp and clean.
I also loved that the story was set in the 1980s — leading us to the perfect soundtrack to have playing in our minds. How fun! And it was great to hear about Eleanor’s poor home life as well as Park’s relationship with his family — I wish that we had seen more of both. I really felt for Park when his dad got snippy with him about a certain eyeliner episode and really enjoyed watching as his mother grew and warmed to Eleanor. I thought a lot of passages including Park’s homeliness could have been done better; had they been further developed and maybe a little research had been done.
(I really, really wanted to hear more on Park’s family okay?)
Naturally, on the topic of Eleanor’s family, I wanted nothing more than to see her and her siblings and mother get away from that disgusting piece of shit step father. Did I mention I have strong feelings on men like him? Because I do. Strong, see red sort of feelings. Gods, he was repulsive. I literally can’t even think about him without getting angry. (And let’s take a moment to cheer on that ending in which things finally start to change!)
Rainbow Rowell also does an excellent job at describing the life of a teenager during their hours spent at school. It reminded me, in surprising detail, what I loved and hated about high school. And it reminded me that fuzzy, warm feeling of being in love for the very first time. Which is an interesting feeling.
Overall, it wasn’t my favorite book. But it wasn’t exactly not worth the read, either. I think that all things aside, it was a pretty solid novel. It could have done better on quite a few things but I think it’s important for readers to acknowledge the faults in the story first and foremost and to build your opinions off of it after reading. I’m going to be up front in saying that it will not be everyone’s cup of tea but a good chunk of readers will adore it.