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Eleanor and Park Review
My rating: ★★★★☆
TRIGGER WARNING – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
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.
Set in North America during the 80s, two outcasts find solace in one another. While I can’t comment on the cultural accuracy of Eleanor & Park, the setting seems pretty flimsy. For example, Park is Asian while Eleanor is Caucasian, but she gets bullied more than he does? I’m sure there was meant to be a degree of racial tension somewhere in the text, but it doesn’t really hit the mark. Personally I think it doesn’t matter at all (though many on GR disagree), it could easily have taken place anywhere in the last 10-15 years, but this isn’t what the story is about anyway.
Eleanor & Park starts off like your standard YA quirky romance. Two awkward kids get together and bring out each others colours etcetc. – nothing’s new under the sun.
The thing that sets Eleanor & Park apart, and what I particularly love about Rainbow Rowell, is that she tackles some really challenging issues in a way that feels really honest, without being crude or childish. That being said, the angsty romance bits in the first half of the book will kind of make you wonder if you were that delirious when you were sixteen.
Anyway, as mentioned above, one particular theme in the text is domestic violence.
Having similar experiences in my youth, I’m unsure if my own feelings colour my opinion, but I feel like Rowell really hit the nail on the head. She paints each predicament in such a way that doesn’t force emotional hand-holding as many YA texts tend to do.
‘You look different. You look unsettling.’
‘You look like you,’ he said. ‘You with the volume turned up.”
Unngghhh these adorable metaphors that only emotionally charged teenagers come up with
Eleanor & Park is told from the alternating perspectives of the title characters and is quite dialogue heavy. I really think this format was perfect, almost necessary to tell this story. Having Eleanor and Park’s voices add such great weight and depth to the text, allowing the reader to make impactful pauses in conversations and translate the dialogue into emotion. Especially in a text that is so emotionally complex, you really need to pause and digest.
This will really be a hit or miss for most. While I definitely think Eleanor & Park is intended for those closer to the adolescent side (I guess that’s why they call it YA), its perfectly fine for those who are not. It’s most certainly not high literature, but it’ll pack a good punch right in the feels!