Tuesday, 17 March 2015

'Eleanor & Park' by Rainbow Rowell: A Book Review

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
 

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've been a fan of Rainbow Rowell's work for the past few years after having read and loved Fangirl and Attachments.
Eleanor & Park is probably Rowell's most popular novel, soon to become a movie as well - Dreamworks picked up the film rights for the story - and this book had been on my TBR list for far too long.
So a few days ago, at the local bookstore, I picked it up and started reading.

Was it enthralling? Was it emotionally powerful? Was it unputdownable?

Well, to be honest...


I'll admit that the start was promising. The new girl, Eleanor, doesn't receive the warmest welcome on the bus, and Parker offers her the seat next to him just to shut everyone up, including her. I was engaged. I adore love-hate relationships - heck, that's the gist of my first novel - but then things started to go downhill.

Just a bit, mind you.
So as days go by, Eleanor and Park go from not talking to reading comic books together in silence to actually talking to hand-holding to 'I don't like you, I need you' to 'I love you' to...
Wait. Hold on.


I understand that Eleanor and Park are both very nice, interesting characters who spend an hour together every day on the bus, and that adoloscent hormones can be overpowering. But how exactly did they go from hating each other to just getting to know each other to professing their love?
And I'm not talking about attraction or mere infatuation. I'm talking about 'thinking about marriage' sort of love.
Eleanor and Park are around sixteen years old. I understand how foolish we can all be at that age, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. But I just couldn't take their 'love' seriously!


The third act of the novel was probably when things hit rock-bottom in the lives of our heroes. The story didn't fare too well, either.
All of a sudden, everything was going too fast - the relationship, the struggles, the conclusion - and while I loved the last line of the book, the ending felt like a cop-out. There wasn't any closure to the story.

Another aspect that bothered me was the setting of the story. E&P is set in Omaha in the year 1986, when racial discrimination was a raging issue. I was expecting at least some of the tension in the novel to be related to race. But apart from a few martial arts and ginger jokes, there was nothing. Nothing about their relationship maybe being an issue because of their diverse backgrounds, nothing about the discrimination Eleanor's two black friends might have faced, nothing about people looking down on Park's mother for her broken English. This was 1986, for heaven's sake! America was not full of giggles and rainbows during that time. Then why is Rowell projecting it that way?


This review has been a wee bit too negative so far. Let's talk about the things I did like about this novel.
While it wasn't unputdownable, it certainly was enjoyable to read. There were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, and I was smiling for at least half of the book. The bus journeys were the highlight of the book.
The writing was classic Rowell. Here are some quotes I liked:

Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away? The math seemed impossible.

So to conclude, although I don't regret reading E&P, I'm still not sure why everyone's so in love with this novel. It was okay, but in my opinion, it can in no way hold a torch to Fangirl or Attachments.


I'm going to go with 3 stars out of 5 for Eleanor & Park.
It did remind me of my first "love", as promised. It reminded me that the phrase 'adoloscent love' is more often than not an oxymoron.
I'd recommend it for fans of John Green, because I'm not a fan of most of his work. Readers who share my taste in books may not enjoy this one.

I have quite a few posts lined up for this week, all reviews: the next PLL episode, Whiplash, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and much more. Stay tuned, Geeks.

Bye!

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