Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I think I may stop limiting my reviews to debut authors. I really like the idea of only reviewing debut authors, but it really cuts out a lot of awesome books that I read and want to write about. I’m going to try this out and see how it goes.

I’m quite late to the game on Eleanor and Park. It seems everyone was reading and reviewing this one months ago. I’m not hip enough for that life, so here we are.

From Goodreads:

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.15745753-1
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

First Impressions: Read it if you’re a sucker for a quick, cheesy, (over)dramatic love story (which I am, regrettably).

Almost every review I’ve read of Eleanor and Park just raves about it. If you like it, you love it. If you don’t like it, you still love it. It has a little bit of everything. A throwback 1980s setting, complicated relationships with siblings and parents, abusive fathers, body issues, bullies, unlikely friendships, music and romance. I mean, it really does have all those plot lines. So it’s a very consuming and detailed book, and really interesting to read. Eleanor and Park make mix-tapes for each other, like real, old school mix-tapes, and every time they were recording one or sharing one, I laughed. I’m not quite old enough to claim a spot in the mix-tape generation, but I do remember my best friend’s mom making me a mix-tape of B*Witched and Britney Spears in second grade. If you don’t know what B*Witched is, please go watch Smart House immediately. If you don’t know what Smart House, please just leave. And find someone who does.

These little details of Eleanor’s and Park’s lives gave the book depth, charm and identity, and it’s probably what I like best about it.

However, this book was a strange circumstance in and of itself. It was the first time that I have ever gone from totally loving a book to being sort of indifferent towards one. In other words, the first 200 pages were surprisingly better than the rest of it. At a certain point, the plot takes this dark turn and, I don’t know, I just wasn’t into it. I felt like they had enough problems to work out and then she throws in this whole other pile of terror (terror because it was terrifying). It seemed like Rowell was grasping for an added dimension that she just didn’t need. It was like she wanted her book to be more than just a love story, like she wanted it to be a story about one person’s struggle for survival. I’m sure a lot of people found this twist exciting. I just found it unnecessary and, frankly, overdone. What she had before this was an honest and troubling, yet hopeful story about a teenage relationship and about growing up, finding out who you are, and learning to be happy with that. To me, that was perfect.

Despite all this, I really did like the book. I read it in a day and a half, so it was quite the page-turner. It was quirky and friendly and engulfing and the characters of Eleanor and Park were as real as they get. It’s definitely one to pick up if you like coming-of-age stories or just young adult in general.

8 out of 10 stars.


2 thoughts on “Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  1. writingmom2013 says:

    Thanks for reviewing! I had seen an ad for this somewhere, but it can be very difficult to tell if you will like something from an ad… you know? I mean, the marketing for Twilight was amazing, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

    I would bet the dark twist was added because Rowan didn’t know how to write a book that was just about the teenage relationship. Some people are very good at analyzing an issue for somewhere between 200-300 or more pages, but it can be kind of difficult for a lot of writers to do that. Sometimes, writers feel like not enough action is happening while they’re writing. Or at least, that’s how I felt the few times I attempted but failed NaNoWriMo.

    I think I’m going to give this book a try. I’m usually okay with dark twists.

    • Refuting the Intolerably Stupid says:

      I completely get what you mean about writers not feeling like there’s enough action. Most of the time, I like a good, dramatic twist, so it was odd that it didn’t sit well with me for this book. Overall, a great read. I hope you like it! Thanks for reading!

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