12 August 2014

Eleanor & Park by 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.

My journey with Eleanor & Park started with a podcast I heard of Rainbow Rowell that was immediately followed by my downloading a sample of it on my phone.  I was drawn in by the fact that it was written in a fresh setting and that, based on the sample I read, it was not instalove.  The summary promised an "extraordinary love," which I was skeptical about because I felt it would take an impressive person to make a love extraordinary love work without relying on instalove.  My experience with Eleanor & Park was multi-faceted because I liked the writing style, the atmosphere, but, unfortunately, not so much the romance or the characters.

What made Eleanor & Park stick out to me was what a brilliant stroke of genius it was to put it in a setting that hasn't had any sort of coverage.  Introducing words and fashion styles and music and technology that was before my time offered an entertaining and compelling atmosphere that was reinforced by the efficient writing style that bordered on edgy.  I appreciated how well Rainbow Rowell could adapt the tone to come off as either gentle and intriguing, or explosive and chaotic.  Her talent for dialogue was also wonderful, because it made the characters come off the page with more clarity.

My lack of enthusiasm lay in several places.  First and foremost was the romance.  I was a huge fan of it going in because the opening chapters made me feel confident that this was going to be a romance developed slowly, but steadily.  While it wasn't an instalove, that one plus was almost entirely negated by the sheer melodramatic power of the romance once it developed.  It seemed that, in a short expanse of time, the two characters went from amiable friends to the fluffy, superficial "we're forever" kind of romance of Nicholas Sparks novels.  I don't like romances where someone's entire happiness is dependent on someone else because it's a desperate love and that's not the kind I like reading about.

Also, I wasn't a huge fan of either main character.  Eleanor was slightly annoying due to her tendency of flipping out for random reasons and getting jealous for no reason.  I sympathized with her because she had a rough home life, but sometimes I just wished she would chill out.  My issue with Park was that he didn't intrigue me.  He went from interesting to one-dimensional, lovesick puppy very fast.

Eleanor & Park, to me, was another one of those meteoric novels that was a nice read in the moment, but not something that lived up to the enthusiasm.  It was a book that came off like a junior Nicholas Sparks novel or a Sarah Dessen novel on steroids.  This kind of book is a godsend for many people, but unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
Don't bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It's disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with big kisses.
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 328
  • published - February 2013
  • publisher - St Martin's Press
  • genre - contemporary fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 4/5