Book Review: eleanor & park by rainbow rowell

eleanor and parkeleanor & park
rainbow rowell
St. Martin’s Griffin, February 2013
ISBN 978-1-250-01257-9
Hardcover

Recently, @realjohngreen wrote an amazing review of eleanor & park for the NY times.  I added the book to my To-Read list.  Shortly after that, the fabulously talented Sophia Bennett gave the book a 5 star rating on Goodreads.  I bought the book that very day and I am so glad that I did.

I finished the book weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to write a review because, for me, sometimes something is so good that I almost can’t talk about it.  To do so, would somehow cheapen it; like performing a random act of kindness, then telling someone all about it.  All of the sudden, that amazingly satisfied feeling dims.  I am over that now.  I know that I don’t have the ability to right a review worthy of this book, so I will just tell you some of my favourite things.

1.     The characters: Eleanor & Park
In different reviews that I’ve read, they have been referred to as “misfits”.  I didn’t see that. Rather, I felt that, in their sincere simplicity they appear to be complex.  To me, they stand out because they are genuinely true to themselves.

2.    Showing that parents do have the capacity to understand, admit when they’ve misjudged, and be supportive, even when they don’t fully understand.
Park’s mother:
·    Not too fond of Eleanor at first, but she later realizes that she “judged a book by its cover” and that she was wrong.
·    I love the way she speaks.
·    Doesn’t even feign subtlety when she chooses to encourage the relationship

Park’s father:
·    Military man, serious, strict and intimidating
·    When Park chooses to change his appearance, his father is furious.  When he tries to accept Park for who he is, he lets Park know in a hilarious, off-the-cuff way.
·    Shows unconditional love by supporting both Park & Eleanor, even when not in agreement

3.    The back of the book tells you that this is a romance, but I would not categorize it as such.  Yes, a relationship develops, but it is not romantic.  Hearts don’t suddenly beat faster, there is no “love at first sight”.  Instead, Eleanor & Park meet only because Park chooses to share his bus seat with a strange-looking, weird-dressing new girl.  The development of the relationship is realistic.  It doesn’t start with a spark then explode into fireworks.  It is way better than that.

4.    Eleanor’s challenges are believable.  The miserable issues she faces aren’t gratuitous.  They are intricate to her character and the development of the story and we all know someone that has been in her position.  The empathy and support that I felt for a fictional character felt real to me.

5.    Finally, I believe it shows teens for who they really are.  Name-calling, teasing & tormenting usually disguise an insecure person with a true heart.  When truly needed, most teens will come through.

I hope that you enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel as much as I have.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2013.