Review: Eleanor & Park

◆ Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
◆ Read January 2014
◆ English Edition

It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are 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.

 A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.❞
I have a bit of an issue with Eleanor & Park: one month after reading it I still can't really get my thoughts in order. This book is a real pageturner and I thought it was really cute while not losing the serious, controversial undertone. At the same time though I wanted to claw my eyes out at how much I hated some parts , which is exactly why this is a hard one to review.

What I definitely did like was Rowell's writing style. Much like with Fangirl she manages to engage the reader throughout the book with appropriate but catchy writing. The descriptions aren't overly long but don't lack anything either and the dialogues are mostly realistic. After reading Fangirl, I did not really expect anything other than for the writing to excel and she has not dissapointed me. 

In addition, I really like the time period the book is set in - the 80's - and how the author captured the spirit of the time. There were aboslutely no anachronisms, all the talk about mixtapes, lack of mobile phones etc. was completely fitting with the setting. While reading I became nostalgic for the time when technology was still absent. ("i'm a 90's bitch" though)

While these are things to love about the book, there were also some things I disliked that I couldn't turn a blind eye to in reviewing this book. 

First of all, I really, desperately disliked main character Park Sheridan. I was indifferent towars him at the start of the book, but I slowly developed a kind of hatred for him everytime his point of view came up. I get that the author was trying to make Park realistic by giving him flaws, but being flawed somehow ended up in being shallow and an asshole. He is somewhat of a spoiled kid and his constant shame on being seen with Eleanor really irritated me. He's the kind of guy I would avoid like the plague in real life. 

Secondly, I did not agree with the way a teenage relationship is portrayed in Eleanor & Park. It was realistic in the sense that it started and developed quickly, like many teenage relationships do. However, in this book it was all about the physical aspect of love while the emotional aspect was practically non-existent. I have aboslutely no issue with sex in books, quite the contrary. But Rowell made it all about kissing, touching, the lead-up to - and the sex itself. I felt zero emotional connection between the characters, simply because they barely talked to each other about their lifes nor really understood each other. Because the relationship lacked this important aspect, I was unable to really consider the book as a love story.

Lastly, the last few chapters of the story felt suddenly rushed and the ending was really unsatisfying. It was like Rowell suddenly decided that she did not feel like writing anymore and wrote the ending in an attempt to wrap it up quickly. It was vague and felt incomplete, which is dissapointing because the plot had all the potentional to have a strong ending. 

Despite its faults, I still enjoyed Eleanor & Park because it was somewhat cute, but also gave some insight in controversial topics that are just as important as the typical story of  "true love".

3 stars because:
✓ Really good writing
✓ True to the time period and somewhat realistic
✗ Unlikeable main character
✗ Issues with relationship portrayal

✗ Unsatisfying ending


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