Release Date: February 28, 2013 (UK)
Source: Princess Judith
Star Rating: ★★★★
TWO MISFITS. ONE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE. It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are 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. A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.
XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.
Judith recommended Eleanor & Park to me for our Epic Recs back in November, and she even went as far as buying it for me for my birthday because she thought it was truly epic. I was very, very hesitant to pick this book up, because there is so much hype surrounding it and sometimes I really dislike the books that the community raves about.
Thankfully, I ended up really enjoying Eleanor & Park, and it gave me a lot of feelings. So Judith can put the knife away now.
Sometimes I dislike books that have a dual narrative. I find that they often feel very jumpy, and it takes me twice as long to connect with either character because we only get to spend half the time in their head. I think that it worked well in Eleanor & Park, however. It provided a good contrast between the two characters, for example there's Eleanor, who was living in a house with an abusive stepfather and a deglective mother; and Park, whose parents were excellent if not somewhat overbearing at times. There are many parallels and contrasts between the two characters, and I think that Rainbow Rowell did that wonderfully.
I did think that Park's race was going to be a bigger issue than it was. Eleanor & Park is set in Omaha in 1986, and so I don't think it was out of the question for me to expect racism to be more prominent in the novel. There are a few mentions, yes, but nowhere near as much as I was expecting. Rowell seemed to skirt around the issue, which a) took me out of the historical setting, and b) left me feeling a little bit disappointed because it is such an important issue that could have been focussed on and dealt with here.
One of the main things that made me hesitant about reading Eleanor & Park was the love story. I knew it was going to take up a huge chunk of the book - the title is simply the two characters' names, for god's sake. While I didn't adore the romance, I did enjoy it and, like I said, it gave me all the feels towards the end. How could it not? I don't think that Eleanor and Park are at OTP level, simply because their romance was uncomfortably cheesy at times and I don't do uncomfortably cheesy.
My favourite part of the romantic arc was both characters learning about each other's insecurities. It's a major theme in this novel, and I loved how they were both able to eventually open up to one another.
Also: Postcards. I have never been so traumatised by a postcard in my life.
I felt a huge connection with Eleanor, and it's safe to say that she is my favourite of the two protagonists, and I would have quite happily read this book if it was told from only her point of view. Her scenes at home were very difficult for me to read, because I went through shockingly similar things when I was a teenager, but at the same time I couldn't turn away. I had to take a few breathers, but overall Eleanor's storyline and her troubles at home were my favourite parts of the novel. Child abuse is still a big issue today, and I think it needs to be spoken about more often, and definitely more loudly. People tend to sweep it under the rug and keep it quiet, and that's definitely not the correct way to go about it.
Overall, Eleanor & Park is a great book which touched upon many different issues, although some were more prominent than others. The romance took a while to grow on me, but once it did it shattered my heart. I would definitely recommend this book to the handful of people who haven't read it yet once they return from their deserted island.