Overview (No Spoilers): The summer before I started my blog I went through a John Green phase. It was a relatively short phase, a whole three days, perhaps binge is a more appropriate word, in which I sobbed uncontrollably with The Fault in Our Stars and pulled my hair out over Looking for Alaska, with the end result of being emotionally burned out with regard to young adult love stories. As such, when seemingly everyone in my blogging community started posting reviews for Eleanor & Park, it didn’t register on my radar due to being still afflicted from an emotional hangover two years later. However, upon this title coming available at my local library coinciding simultaneously with my audiobook queue being empty, I borrowed Eleanor & Park with my overall expectations being low indeed. I should know by now to stop prejudging books by their genre, especially when other readers really seem to love this story. Within a few short chapters, I was hooked, ensuing in a marathon listening session. Anyone who might have observed me mowing my yard this week probably thought I was a bit crazy as I was on an emotional roller coaster with these two sixteen year olds. One minute I would be giggling (yes giggling) followed by tears streaming down my cheeks ten minutes later. I can only imagine what my neighbors think. With that being said, Eleanor & Park had a more realistic/deeper feel than the Green novels I had previously read. This novel merges a darker side of high school bullying and the emotional abuse experienced within home life, with young infatuation/love. Specifically, I felt as though I was transported directly into the abuse experienced by Eleanor more so than any previous novel I’d read with protagonists in this age range. Striking a cord was Eleanor’s struggle to go to school everyday and act ‘normal’ despite the events of the previous night, ultimately, provoking me to reflect back on various kids I went to high school with, wondering if they had similar home lives that I was oblivious to in my youth. I loved the difference in perspectives offered from Park and Eleanor’s viewpoints with regard to the same exact events. Overall, Eleanor & Park turned out to be so much more than just stereotypical story of teenage romance, having incited much thought provoking analysis and self-reflection days after reading.
Additionally (Spoilers Abound):
- Park was mature beyond his years! I loved how his character bucked traditional norms, e.g., dress, music, eyeliner, to pursue who he truly was, creating a unique personality. He made me reflect back on the conformity I had embraced throughout high school and most of college. Honestly, I’m not sure how much I could have bucked traditional norms in the small, rural high school I attended anyway. Other than stories experienced in books, I wouldn’t have known anything different.
- My favorite part of the book was the awkward bus interactions in which Park and Eleanor started to grow their relationship, beginning with the comic books and moving to music. Those initial bus rides were so very painful, however the quick bouncing back and forth between POVs helped the situation grow in to a playful banter for the reader, resulting in the relationship evolving into one of love.
- Park’s parents were such an awesome addition to this novel. They grew in depth and complexity as the story progressed. Their support of Eleanor was heart warming, especially when the dad let Park drive her to Minnesota.
- I absolutely loved Park’s mom! I couldn’t stop smiling with how excited she was for the make over! So fun!
- I was surprised at the one dimensionality of Eleanor’s mom. I kept expecting depth and understanding to be added to her character, for example during the mother and daughter’s early morning trek to the thrift store, however the interactions failed to progress further than slight indications that she cared.
- My key complain is how abrupt and rushed the ending felt. I hated that Eleanor was ignoring Park after everything he had done for her.
- What happened to the mom and kids after Eleanor fled? We know from Park’s POVs that the mom and kids disappeared from the house. Where did they go?
- What was the three word postcard that Eleanor sent Park? ‘I love you.’ I miss you.’ ‘Cyclops is boring.’ I would have to guess that it was ‘I love you’ since she had never told Park this back, however I feel like it would have been in her personality to rekindle the connection with something snarky or sarcastic. An inside joke that the both of them would have understood.