- “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell
- ISBN: 1250012570 / ISBN13: 9781250012579
- Number of Pages: 328
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
- Publication Date: 26 February 2013
- Date Read: December 2013 (first read) / 05 April 2016 (re-read)
- Format and Source: Hardback, given to me by Gie
- Rating: ★★★★
One extraordinary love.
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.
I was new to GoodReads when a Facebook friend (who is automatically linked as friend on my GoodReads page) recommended that I read this. That same time, another Facebook friend rated this book 5 stars and said that reading it made her time travel back in time. The common denomination I have with these two friends? Our age bracket.
Well, though I was born in 1980, I was more of a 90s kid because I was still too young to fully love the 80s vibe, but as an old soul, I did get transported in time, just like my friend. I was laughing through some of the pop culture references, though some of it – especially the TV shows mentioned – were foreign to me. When I first finished reading this in 2013, I was truly wondering how the young adults received this book, because it was so easy to get lost with the pop culture references and feeling alienated might affect the whole reading experience. However, there is no doubt that this book effectively captured not just the YA readers, but the thirty and forty somethings as well.
Back then, I gave this 4 stars, but I strongly disliked Eleanor, thinking their love story was a one way street, and it was only Park who reached out to her. For years, although I liked the story overall, I had kept this negative feeling towards Eleanor. Re-reading the book just yesterday, I got to understand many things – especially with Eleanor. I realized that she did also reach out, she also showed her feelings for Park, but she had so many things to weigh, making her actions, words, and yes… insecurities understandable. True, I still don’t fully like her as a character, but one thing was sure – her character was realistic.
Park, wow… I must say I fell in love with him more. He was caring, gentle, understanding, and someone who could stand up for what he believed in – something we all (I guess) look for in partner. His family was so animated and so ideal, that I looked forward to reading Park’s POV because his side of the story was fun and positive, it helped balance the story as a whole, because Eleanor’s side was the total opposite. Though I want to strangle her parents (especially her mom), I do get that that sort of thing happens.
One big thing I applaud about this book was its diversity. The cast of characters was a melting pot of races – Park was part Korean, Eleanor was a mix of Danish and Scottish bloods, and Eleanor had Black American friends. Not only that, the main focus of the book might be the romance between Eleanor and Park, but it also tackled a lot of issues – bullying, domestic violence, and drug use. Eleanor’s situation may be difficult to deal with, and in a way felt a little exaggerated, but the entirety of the book was very realistic for me. It was one of those books that I could re-read after every…say two years, and still felt as if I was reading it the first time.
The romance was sweet and paced just right. Though it didn’t have so much going on given the circumstances, I still think that the flow from being strangers to friends to lovers was neither rushed nor slow. So simple, yet it brought back memories of young love. Actually, despite some heavy themes in the book, Rainbow Rowell’s writing was simple and something easy to read. Even with the alternating POVs, the flow of the scenes and words just ran smoothly. Re-reading this reminded me of how much I love her as an author, and I think pretty soon, I will be reading her latest releases (Carry On and Kindred Spirits) to catch up with her progress as a writer.
Of course, I could never forget talking about the ending. If you still haven’t read the book, this will be a spoilery part, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. Do know that then and now, I give this 4 stars… but I did appreciate the book this time than the first time I read it. If you want a realistic YA fiction, I recommend you read this, and hope you will like it, too.
Now, the ending. Just when I thought I was understanding Eleanor’s point of view, I was really disappointed at how she treated Park during the last pages of the book. Park went out of his way, not minding if his parents would ground him for life…and yet Eleanor just didn’t reciprocate the gesture, especially now that she no longer had Richie tying her on a leash. Part of me just couldn’t fathom how she just easily neglected what she and Park just shared. Well, granted that the ending was promising, my poor sarcasm just interpret that “just three words long” as –
- Stop sending mails…
- Stop pestering me…
- Shoo, go away…
- Just move on…
True, open ended stories has this good sense of mystery to it, but somehow I felt a little cheated – that I have read some 300+ pages without any proper ending. It felt like listening to a joke with half a punchline.
Still, I do know in my heart that those “three words” were “I love you.” I may have a few disappointments about it, but the book overall was a good one, and I am grateful that Gie gifted me a physical copy of it. Truly a great addition to my library.