Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Book Review

15745753 This is a bit of an old one! And by that I mean it’s two years old, which is old for YA. Seemingly though, everyone has read it. At least that may make for some interesting discussion. So… read on for the review and then let me know whether you agree or disagree.

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits. 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 started this book a month ago, and really should have finished it a month ago too. It’s a quick easy read – for some reason I just got a bit distracted and picked up something else. I liked this book. I didn’t love it, which is a bit disappointing because everyone seems to love it. I can see why, but it just didn’t appeal to me on that level. It didn’t capture me the way Fangirl did (click for my review!), and that might be because of the age of the characters. I couldn’t really relate to it because at that time in my life I didn’t have this burning desire, this stereotypically all-consuming young love that Eleanor and Park have for each other. It’s charming, but to me it seems unrealistic, simply because that stuff wasn’t important to me at the tender (and painful) age of sixteen.

I understand that to other teenagers relationships and sex (and everything in between) are rather prominent, and that may be why they love this book – or perhaps they didn’t experience it either and want to, or wish they had. Don’t get me wrong, Eleanor & Park isn’t just about a relationship, it’s not just about sex (or the things in between). And I suppose that fact feeds into the things I did appreciate about this speedy read.

It addresses domestic violence, albeit in a singular and simplistic way. The effects of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, are shown on the children and it highlights (just one side of) what a ‘broken family’ can be, and the often unwritten consequences (at least within contemporary literature) of poverty on a young person. I also really did like the dynamic of Park’s family – the identity questions that Park’s dual heritage brings about in him as a teenage boy, and how his parents’ different upbringings informed his character, their’s, and their interactions. It was also quite nice to experience this story of teenage love in a decade in which I wasn’t around. I found it easy to picture this all rolling out on a big screen like a John Hughes movie.

Overall, Eleanor & Park is a pleasant enough novel, but I found it lacking in too many ways for me to ever imagine wanting to read it again. While there were plenty of interesting plot points I felt as though nothing really happened and Rainbow Rowell didn’t utilise the story’s potential to make it feel like something was really happening, or that any of it really mattered, because to me, as an adult (sort of) I know that what Eleanor was obsessing about the whole time is less pressing than she makes it out to be. After a while, it got a bit tiring. You know, the whole ‘touching’ thing, the ‘his lips’ thing, the ‘he’s so cute’ thing. Maybe because at seventeen, I remember life being about a lot more than a cute boy touching my waist and thinking my quirks were cool (to be honest, they weren’t, they were just… quirks). I do intend to read Rainbow’s Landline and Attachments. They’re supposed to be about adults right? Maybe I’ll like them, because I’m totally an adult now… I think.

My personal rating: 3/5. Amazon average: 4.5/5. Goodreads average: 4.16/5.

Buy from: Amazon/Book Depository/Your Local Indie Book Store ♥

Pages: 328

Publishers: Orion

Publication Date: February 26th 2013

Follow the author on Twitter: @RainbowRowell

Have you read this book? You probably have. I know this may be an unpopular opinion (or a grouping of unpopular opinions) about this book that already seems to be considered a YA romance classic. Let me know what you think!

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6 thoughts on “Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Book Review

  1. Fangirl wasn’t so much for me either. The whole hype around Rainbow Rowell makes it really difficult for me to even try to read another novel by her but I really want to, actually.

    1. I know exactly what you mean about hype. I was tentative going into Fangirl, but glad it lived up for me. This, not so much. Hype takes me one of two ways every time – either it’s a disappointment, or it lives up to it. I think maybe I should try and ignore hype and just read what I think I’ll like, not what everyone else says I’ll like!

  2. Omg! I’m so happy to find someone else who liked Fangirl way more than E&P. Not that E&P was bad, it’s not. But it didn’t speak to me. I liked how their friendship developed out of sharing comics and music, and there was a bit of nostalgia for me, because that was my time. I enjoyed it, but I’ll have forgotten it in a year or two.

    Fangirl, however, I adored. I know a large part of that is the fandom side, especially since it’s Harry Potter (MY fandom), and writing. But I also llked the story pacing, the sister relationship, how the excerpts fit in, and how everything ties up. It just feels more unique to me, and a lot more special. It’s hard to see it how everyone else does, since the fandom side is so huge for me, but I just liked the story and characters more.

  3. Brilliant review! I think you give a really good argument for people to make an informed decision on as to whether they’ll enjoy the book or not. I shamefully haven’t read any of Rainbow’s books but I’ve heard so many good things – about this one and the others! xo

    1. Aw thank you 🙂 before I read Fangirl I felt like I was missing out so much! I think they’re definitely worth a read but not everyone will love her writing. I suppose it’s aimed at a very specific audience. I don’t see them being massive crowd-pleasers but her fans are really dedicated. If I were a writer I think I’d prefer that!

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