Friday, February 14, 2014

REVIEW: ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary Romance
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5


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.


Seven reasons why you should consider reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell:

Two magnificent protagonists

Why is that? Well, how often do you come across an overweight girl character with crazy frizzy candy-apple-red hair, so many freckles she even have them on her bottom lip, and who dresses like a boy? Not often, right? Well, that is Eleanor in a nutshell. Now imagine the aforementioned protagonist being considered the biggest (literally) loser in school, often bullied and ridiculed, and then on top of that she eventually falls in love with the semi-popular Asian boy whom – for the first few chapters – she thinks of as “the stupid Asian kid”. 

“The stupid Asian kid” aka Park 

If you’ve never thought an Asian guy can be romantic, soft-spoken, handsome as heck, considerate, and caring, then you have to read this book just so you can meet comic-loving Park. Trust me, he alone makes this book worth it.

It takes you back to the eighties 

Memory lane, anyone? Admittedly, I’m more a child of the nineties and hardly remember anything about the eighties, but living in a third-world country everything here is five years behind the rest of the world anyway, so we experienced most of the eighties in the nineties. There’s a treasure trove of eighties pop culture in this novel which took me back to my childhood.

Park’s family 

This is one of the best, and most realistic families I’ve ever come across in YA literature. I absolutely love his mom! And I’m positive you’ll love her too. She played a huge role in keeping me with my nose glued to the pages of this book. She’s hilarious and sweet and practically everything a mom should be (in her own strange way). Park’s dad and younger brother are also great characters, but his mom is the one who shines in all her scenes. She and Park has the weirdest, but most endearing, relationship.

Eleanor’s family 

Every chapter that dealt with Eleanor’s life at home was heartbreaking and hard to read. I wished with all my heart I could take her and her siblings away from there. Like Park’s family, Eleanor’s is uniquely different, and the exact opposite of the structured, yet carefree life at Park’s house. Her mom is being abused by Richie, Eleanor’s stepdad, and Eleanor and her four siblings live in such squalor I can only commend the author for her fearlessness in creating such a background for Eleanor which must’ve been just as heartbreaking for Ms Rowell to write, as it was for me to read. You think you’ve read about poverty in other YA books? I’m positive those were nothing compared to Eleanor’s family. Imagine a toothbrush and a bar of soap being a luxury. Imagine having only a few sets of clothes, all of it purchased from Goodwill. How about sharing one tiny bedroom with all four your siblings, and the bathroom not having a door that can close or lock? I cried through most of this book. Seriously

Phenomenal, realistic, messy romance 

Here’s the thing: I knew, when I started reading this book, that it is a romance. I was prepared for it going in. After all, I had to see why everybody is raving about this book! What I wasn’t prepared for was Park hating Eleanor at first sight; of him being embarrassed of her and trying to avoid her wherever he can. What I didn’t expect was how much I wanted them to fall in love. I was not prepared – and really, I didn’t see it coming – for how hard, and real, and complicated, their relationship was going to be. I’ve never read romance like this before.

The writing 

Where do I even start? I’m not a fan of romance, but Ms Rowell might make a fan of me yet. The prose is stunning! It’s actually really simple and straightforward, but the raw emotions she captures so exquisitely in a few words, is striking. I was enamored by all of it because it’s not just a simple, straightforward love story (even though the writing is). It’s complicated, and beleaguered by Eleanor’s situation at home, her stepfather, and her self-deprecating personality, and many other factors.

I didn’t have high expectations going into Eleanor & Park, but now Ms Rainbow Rowell can count me as another one of her myriad adoring fans. The ending, and sometimes Eleanor’s persistent insecurities and stubbornness to keep Park at arm’s length, didn’t do much for me. But everything else in this breathtaking poignant read more than made up for it. Although I’d recommend this book to every single hardcore romance fanatic out there, I also insist that it should be read by everyone with a compassionate heart. It’s not only the romance that makes this an epic novel, but also every minute detail that went into creating the most realistic characters and Eleanor’s family life, that makes this a magnificently worthwhile read.  If you cry easily, keep a box of tissues handy. You’ll undoubtedly need it.



Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

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