BOOK IN REVIEW: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell11:00 AM
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Hardcover: 336 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book."This particular statement by John Green pretty much sums up all my feelings about Eleanor & Park.
In fact, I have zero words that could justify the masterpiece that is this book. It has taken me days to start writing this review, because this book has just left me... utterly speechless, and nothing I write will ever live up to the beauty and magnificence of this novel.
Nevertheless, I shall blabber on.
It's 1986, and Eleanor has just returned to Ohama after being kicked out of her home by her douchebag stepfather. Her daily life is riddled with fear of him, while her mother powerlessly obeys her abusive husband and takes his side, out of sheer terror, perhaps. She is also poor, not being able to afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman, and is forced to share a tiny room with her other siblings.
And then there's Park. He can be considered popular, but is separated from the others because of him being half-Korean. He has a healthy family life, with possibly the best set of parents and a little brother who loves him. Because of his inherently good nature, he is the only one nice enough to offer Eleanor a seat next to him on the bus. There is no love at first sight magic between them. In fact, there might even have been a little resentment. But overtime, without even talking, they start to bond over comic books and mixed tapes, eventually falling in love.
Reading the novel just gave me this warm, happy, squirmy feeling in my chest. When they fall in love, it never feels like it was forced or too soon. The time when they first hold hands is so intense, that you'd remember the time when you first held hands with your first love.
"Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive."The writing and all the metaphors were just... perfect. Eleanor would think of Park as a protagonist to a story. And then you had Park describing Eleanor like this:
"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."Without a doubt, the greatest strength of this novel are the characters of Eleanor and Park themselves. Eleanor is not that manic pixie dream girl nor is she that sweet and pretty girl-next-door type. She's a "big" girl with flaming red hair, who dresses funnily and is often bullied and mocked for her weirdness. Though generally good-looking, Park does not look like he walked out of a billboard either, and is described as a thin, half-Korean, half-American. They're both so real and relatable that you can identify with both of them. You can identify with Eleanor, the way she's so insecure with her own body. Or you can identify with Park, the way he strives to meet his father and society's expectations of him. It's the diversity of the characters and the fact that they're not at all cliches that makes this novel so beautiful.
Setting the novel in the year 1986, also showed the simplicity of the times back then, and how relationships were formed without the advent of technology. And God knows I know absolutely NOTHING about 1986 (I was born in the 90s), and I did not even get most of the pop culture references, but does it make sense that I could relate more to Eleanor & Park more than any other book published in the year 2013?
And it's precisely because I can't even remember the last time I've witnessed a love story that is so hauntingly real. And a love between teenagers, for that matter, There's the awkward first moves, the butterflies in the stomach, the late night conversations, the shallow first fights, the misunderstandings, the intense passion and longing for each other - all encapsulating what first love feels like. It's a me and you against the world kind of love. Eleanor & Park live in the kind of world that won't allow them to be together. It's the kind of world that cannot even fathom the idea of romance between a Korean Kid and a Big Red.
But when you're 16 and in love, does it matter what the world thinks?