Book Review

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell | Book Review

“He tried to remember how this happened. How she went from someone he’d never met, to the only one who mattered”

I was less than 70 pages in when I thought “this book is going to hurt me”.

Did it? Yes and no. Not in the way I expected.

I want to state a potential trigger warning for domestic violence. I can’t say whether the content, or if the way the book is written, could cause emotional distress however, please be aware it is present within the novel.

Eleanor is the new girl at school. On the first day she’s declared an outcast before she’s even set foot on school grounds. With her loud clothes, bright red hair and large appearance, she’s an immediate target amongst her peers.

On that same day she meets Park. They don’t particularly like each other. They just about tolerate each other on the bus rides to and from school. But soon, through comic books and mixed tapes, they find common ground which transforms into something so much more.

My Thoughts

I would say this book definitely has problematic moments but I’m having trouble deciding whether or not it’s because a lot of teenagers are – in ways – problematic themselves. I’m not saying all teenagers however, if problematic people exist then by extension so do problematic teenagers. The word ‘bully’ was created for a reason, right? So why can’t they exist here in the world of Eleanor and Park?

Sometimes I felt that the actions of the characters didn’t make sense – but then I’ve never personally been in the situations Eleanor and Park found themselves in.

In regards to the story itself, I really liked it and was gripped from the start. This book is filled with moments. Moments of happiness, sadness, love, disgust, laughter and despair. We have all the emotions in three hundred and twenty-nine pages. 

Throughout the book we follow Eleanor and Park, each from their own point of view. I like that we were able to get inside each characters heads and see how they evolved internally as well as externally.

Characters

“I look like a hobo?”

“Worse” he said “Like a sad hobo clown”

“And you like it?

“I love it”

For example, both of them cared a lot about what other people thought of them. Although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the outside looking in. 

Park started out shallow, selfish and thoughtless. Passing judgement internally, he was happy to sit on the sidelines. 

Eleanor started out snarky, indifferent and, I could be wrong, but I feel that she had some commitment issues. She also passed judgement internally (mostly) and, as much as she would have liked to sit on the sidelines, she was usually forced to the centre.

Of course, the one thing ruling them both was fear. Fear that their peers would find out and ridicule them. Perhaps I was in too much of a bubble at school, but did people care that much about who people dated? There was also a fear that her family would find out. That was a big fear. 

Both characters had insecurities which you could understand and perhaps you could even relate to them. One insecurity came out of nowhere, but if they’re not shared then I suppose sometimes they do.

If I haven’t made it obvious by now, this is a love story. A teenage love story, but a love story nonetheless. There were moments it was painful, both in terms of the heavy subject matters, and at times because it was so damn cheesy. There were also moments it was kind of beautiful, even I can’t deny that. I can’t say I relate to it, because I can’t say I’ve ever been that head-over-heels in love with someone. But it was lovely to witness.

The romance wasn’t perfect, but then what relationship is? None from what I hear.

Of course there are other matters in this book which means the stakes are higher.

Reading this at times made me feel grateful. Grateful for my parents, grateful for my home. Grateful for my damn toothbrush. It caused me to become sad at how a mother could put her children at risk. It made by skin crawl at how someone could be so cruel and disturbed.

Conclusion

The ending. The ending is the definition of “write your own ending” in my opinion. I have my own theories about how it ended and, if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear yours. 

In conclusion, yes this story is about young love. However, I also think that, although it’s difficult to see at times, this story is about so much more than that. It’s about hope. 

“I’m sorry about yesterday”

He hung on his straps and shrugged “Yesterday happens”

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