Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carla's Thoughts: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Publishing 5 March 2013 by St Martins Press

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."

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.

It’s 1986. The year of Dollywood, Top Gun and the birth of yours truly. Eleanor is the new girl at school. From her bright red unruly hair to the fact that she wears men’s shirts and unstylish pants, not to mention not conforming to a stereotypical body shape, she is the metaphorical red flag waved in front of a crowd of bulls. If only that was the worst of the chicks problems.  Her step father is abusive and her large family are deep in the depths of poverty and despair.

Park is a shining light of brightness; unlike Eleanor he fits in, not just in school but in his family. He is loved by his parents, who in turn love each other, having fallen in love when his father was in Korea during the war. Hell yes for diversity – Park is half Korean and it was refreshing to read (he wasn't a token diverse character, a trope that annoys me a LOT, kind of like the gay best friend.) I love the juxtaposition between Park and Eleanor's family as it drove home the differences between the two and how no matter what, building a bridge to each other to connect is easy when you want something hard enough.

It starts with a bus ride and the simple act of offering of a spare seat (begrudgingly, but even so) and so it goes. Then comes the slow turned comic book pages and furtive glances and mixed tapes. The secrets and those soft quiet moments that carry all the weight. And finding friendship, The Beatles and first love.

Eleanor and Park as title is perfect, because this book is about them, both together and separate. Told from both points of view, sometimes whole chapters, other times just one sentence, we get to work out the puzzle that is them. And watching them develop as characters over the course of the novel was mesmorising. Rowell has a special way of enveloping you in her story so completely that you *feel* everything along with the characters. That all-consuming intense feeling of first love and how you feel that nothing could ever possibly feel like this again.

Rowell is not afraid to bring out the big guns with her Serious Issues. Nothing is sugar coated or polished over; it is as raw as reality and sometimes it will hurt your heart to read. But that’s what makes it so perfect; life is hard and even more so when you have obstacles to overcome that seem too tall to ever contemplate getting over. It’s these vulnerabilities and complications that make people who they are. It’s what makes Eleanor who she is and it’s what makes Park become who he wants to be.

It’s going to be hard let these two go, so I’m not going to, I’m going to keep them with me for a while. The perfect example of how we are the sum of our parts; how it’s the little things about us that make us who we are and that we should love every part of ourselves or find someone who will love those parts of us we haven’t yet accepted until we do. A Spellbinding novel.

Eleanor and Park, this is for you - There is a light and it never goes out.

16 comments:

  1. *slow clap* Hey, remember when you were like, "I don't know how to do this book justice in a review" and then you totally did?

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    1. awwwww hey remember when I was like "Capillya is the nicest girl I ever did know?" because you totally are.

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  2. I loved this book, and I agree with Capillya - you definitely did it justice with this review. The simplicity and the heart behind Eleanor & Park just blew me away.

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    1. thanks Alexa! I always have a bit of a panic when I love a book because I convince myself I won't be ever to do it justice and y'know, there are only so many ways you can say 'oh hi, read this book because I love it'. I'm glad you loved it too!! E&P 4EVA

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  3. F YEAH I WANT TO READ THIS RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!

    Also.

    The 1980s. More books set here, please. :-)

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    1. RIGHT?! I mean, I didn't get ALL the pop culture references because i'm too young (who am I kidding, COURSE I DO).

      you will love it April.

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  4. I only just heard about this one over at Greads but I must have it! It sounds amazing and your review makes me want to read it right this minute (and it looks like I'm not the only one who feels this way ^^)!

    Also, I LOVE the fact that it's set in the 1980's! I wish more books were set in the past like Eleanor & Park.

    Lovely review :)

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    1. thanks Rebecca! I wish more books were set in the 80's too!!!!!! it's only the best decade.

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  5. Oh, hai Carla. I'm sitting here at my laptop trying to figure out what in the heck to read next. I decided to peruse my google reader because I'm so behind on blog reading (bad me) and I see this review. And um, dilemma solved. I've got this from NetGalley. I think I'll read it right. now. :)

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    1. oh HEY THERE Magan, are you reading Eleanor and Park?!!! ARE YOU? (p.s. hope you love it! let me know what you think when you finish)

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  6. I feel like I start out every comment this way, but I can't help myself.. CARLA, I ADORE YOUR WORDS. This novel really hit home for me, too. Its the type of story that just sits with you and that's ok because you never want it to leave anyway. By far one of the BEST YA's I've read this year and your review definitely captures my reasons for thinking so. And now I am singing Jay Malinoswki's "Theres a Light" in my head. THANK YOU, xoxo.

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  7. Oh, this one sounds great! I love when books involve characters who are as opposite as day and night...and the 2 points of view! I know that can drive some folks crazy, but I love books that can do that. As long as it's done well.

    Adding this to my TBR list!

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  8. Carla, you are such a beautiful writer. I always loved your work before but wow, this one blew me away. I know what you mean about keeping characters... I feel the same about two I read about this week and whoa, I haven't been able to write that review yet. I hope mine someone reaches the level yours did. I'm going to check out the publication details right now and see what I can do. EEK. So psyched.

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  9. I have a copy of this on my Kindle, and after your review it is definitely calling to me! I can't wait to pick it up.

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  10. Of course I want to read this because: "That all-consuming intense feeling of first love and how you feel that nothing could ever possibly feel like this again." YES.

    Also I love the way you never want to let your characters go. It's so wonderful. I'm very similar and I love this so much, that we can hold onto these characters forever.

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  11. Rainbow Rowell writes real characters that transcend boundaries of "YA" or "Adult" fiction. In this novel, you'll find solid writing, engaging characters, and a believable journey. While there's a lot of character-driven humor, there's also a dark thread through the plot that plays out believably in Rowell's competent hands. Oh, and as an 80s gal myself, it was a lot of fun to read the 80s references.
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