book review: eleanor & park by rainbow rowell


Here's a book that surprised me. I always saw it around in bookshops and online recommendations, but i never actually wanted to read it. I think it was because of the title. The title misled me to believe it was going to be a typical teen love story(it technically was though), and i wasn't very interested in those kinda books for the first half of the year. One of my friends also told me that it was good at some parts but she didn't like it as a whole, so that sort of convinced me to not give it a try when i first heard about it.

I ended up borrowing a copy of it from one of my college friends when i exchanged one of my books with her. Even so, it took me nearly three months until i finally made myself pick the book up and start reading. Guess what? I read it in half a day.

***

Eleanor & Park is a novel about, well, Eleanor and Park. Eleanor was eye-catching, but not in an impressive way. She doesn't look physically appealing, wears old and boyish clothes every day, and gets teased a lot at school about her size and looks. She comes from a somewhat messed-up family; her mother was divorced after four kids and remarried a younger guy named Richie. Eleanor couldn't get along with Richie and was thrown out of the house for a year before high school started. She tries her best to avoid Richie's bad temper. They all lived in a very small house that doesn't even have a door for its bathroom, and the children are forced to cramp into a single bedroom. That was Eleanor's life.

Park on the other hand, lived quite the opposite way. He was half-Asian, half-American but physically leaned more towards the Asian side which came from his mother. His little brother, Josh, was also Asian-looking but was much taller than he was, following their dad's traits. Park is mostly quiet but socializes when he needs to, which saves him from getting bullied and all. He reads comics almost all the time, and loves listening to music.

The book started off with Eleanor being forced to sit beside Park on the school bus. The two of them never talked, as Park thought Eleanor was weird and Eleanor referred to Park as the "stupid Asian kid". Park would listen to music and read his comic books on the bus every day, which lets him avoid having to talk to Eleanor(or anyone, really). As time went by, he notices that Eleanor would frequently peek at his comics as he read them. He starts to turn the pages more slowly and silently lets her read with him. After a while, he decides to lend Eleanor a comic book every day. The two still never exchanged a word to each other. Eventually, they started to talk and their friendship bloomed with their interest in different comics and music.

The story continues when they start to like each other, but the society around them wonders at the unlikeliness of the two being together. 

***
Even though there were damn too many cliches in this book, the cliche stuff were so innocently ridiculous that i couldn't help but feel real bubbly while reading. I literally heard myself laughing(yes, out loud!) more than a few times at some of the characters' thoughts and actions. I think the characters were around 16-years-old and i guess it's adorable to read about their first thoughts at love. I could relate to that at some point, which was possibly why i felt giddy and excited while reading the book. 

To be honest, i was quite doubtful that i was going to like the book after reading the first few pages. I think it was because there were way too many swear words being said and thought. I guess i was shocked because looking at the cover and the theme of the book, the story seemed very innocent. Of course, it was expected that they were going to fall for each other(the title even gave it away haha), but nevertheless it was exhilarating to read because i couldn't expect how they would start liking each other. The way they started to interact was just too cute. I loved reading the character development of both of the main characters, particularly Park.

I was warned by some people that the ending of the book will frustrate me, and i guess they were quite right. I did get frustrated, but at the same time i quite loved it. I do know that some people really hated it, but it seemed smart of Rainbow Rowell to end it in a way that nobody would expect her to. There were so many feels in this book, not just the bubbly ones but also the sad, pitiful ones. Also, i have to praise the author for her lovely descriptions of everything. I just realised how easy it was to imagine the characters and the setting. I felt like a movie was being played inside my head.


[Spoiler section. Do not read if you plan to read the book]

I LOVE PARK SHERIDAN, LIKE SO MUCH. Even though it seems rare that a guy would really not care about a girl's physical image, reading about one who loved a girl for her personality and self made me fall in love with him. He also sounds very attractive, being half-Asian who loves reading comics, has an epic taste in music and is amazing at martial arts. I kept doubting that he would have sincere feelings for Eleanor. Reading some of his thoughts, it seemed like at some point he wanted to give up on her. After the scene where Eleanor got pranked by her bullies and Park saw her in her tight gym clothes, i was certain that his true character would show and that he would stop wanting to be with her. Even though the next part was gross, but the thought that he didn't mind how she looked physically(and seemed that he loved her for it) just made me gush and smile while reading this book.

I honestly did not like Eleanor very much, but i did feel sorry for her a lot for the life that she had to live in. I got sad at the descriptions of how poor she was, at how she couldn't even afford to buy a toothbrush and how she had to sacrifice a lot of things just to make her family happy. Okay, maybe i did start to like her as her character developed. But oh my God, i couldn't help but hate her in the end. How could she do that to Park!? I was also a little disgusted when she wanted to sleep with Park before she left, and loved Park even more for refusing. I guess i gotta understand that they were teenagers who thought the world of each other and were going to be separated. I was still okay with her after this, but nothing else stopped me after reading how she never replied to any of Park's letters for a long time.

I'm not sure if it was Rainbow Rowell's intention to make us hate Eleanor in the end, but i wish she had written more about Eleanor's new life to explain why she would stop wanting to contact Park. I was glad that Park came to his senses and tried to somehow move on with his life. Eleanor's eventual reply was the huge frustration in the end, of course. Her reply was the ultimate decision whether i would hate her forever or forgive her for what she had done to Park. Since we could never really find out what the three bloody words were, i just have to stick to my initial opinion of her. I hate cliffhangers but this one was hardly one; and that was why i thought it was an awesome ending. I usually want closure at the end of a book, but for some reason i was fine with this one being ambiguous. 

[End of spoiler section]

I can't decide whether Eleanor & Park is one of my favourite books or not, but it's definitely a book worth reading for a few bubbly laughs. It's not a hard read, but it's not very appropriate for i'd say 14-years-old and under. There are a lot of swearing and some making-out moments. It's cliche but realistic both at once. Overall, i enjoyed it and i hope they'll really decide to make the movie. I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5. Wow, i've been reading a lot of romance-kinda novels, huh?  Well, some of them are nice :)

P.s. i read this book about a month ago, so my review is based on what i remember feeling at that time. I had to refer back to Wikipedia for some details about the plot. Sorry for any misleading opinions.


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