“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.
Tell Me More: Eleanor & Park was a book that came highly recommended to me by the fabulous Rebecca at Indigo Yorkdale. With comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars and Gayle Forman being made by fellow readers I trusted, I knew right away that I had to find the time to check out why everyone loved this story. Unfortunately, good recommendations don’t always result in satisfying reads, and Eleanor and Park simply did not charm me as much as I hoped they would.
My reading experience can best be expressed as an inability to suspend disbelief. I couldn’t lose myself in the story because everything felt too perfectly set up to tell a certain kind of story. I felt like I could see all the reasons why Rowell chose to have her characters say and do certain things, instead of discovering those hidden layers bit by bit as I read. I spent most of my reading time nodding along, thinking “of course they love the Smiths,” “of course comic books are what they connect over,” and the like. There’s nothing wrong with those things being E&P’s interests, but I feel like every single “nerd/outcast” character in YA fiction shares the same interests. Some variety would be nice–how about a self-proclaimed nerd who loves pop music or reality shows? Park’s parents were pretty stereotypical too, and I couldn’t quite shed my discomfort with the way the relationship was illustrated. Park’ father might love his mother, but I never got the sense that he truly understood her or cared about her cultural background, and I do not agree with John Green’s review where he stated that they were well-drawn adults.
Likewise, the love story between Eleanor and Park results in some adorable moments, but it never really got off the ground for me. I couldn’t particularly relate to either of them, so I wasn’t invested in what eventually happened between them. Some thoughts Eleanor had about Asians also bothered me enough to make me step away from the book for a little bit. The relationship between Eleanor and Park wasn’t surprising either, though there were a few moments that made me go “awww.” There was little to distinguish it from other contemporary YA romances, and even as I write this review, I struggle to recall scenes that made me emotional.
What I did find intriguing were Eleanor’s life at home and her family. I wish more time had been spent on scenes between Eleanor and her siblings, instead of the hints of discontent and distrust that are scattered throughout the book. Her abusive step-father was the only character to garner a real reaction from me, and remembering some of the things he said and did still makes me shudder. I also would have liked to know more about her mother and the relationship they had before her mother married Richie.
The Final Say: Eleanor & Park read like a sketch of a painting: not quite whole, not quite full and not quite real enough to capture my imagination and make me love it.
Rainbow Rowell is the author of Attachments, Eleanor & Park, and Fangirl. When she’s not writing, she’s obsessing over other people’s made-up characters, planning Disney World trips, and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.