Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Rate: 4/5


Medium: Audiobook


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.

 

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33 comments

  1. I really liked this book as well, and I think my favorite thing about this review is you saying how you looked back on your time in high school and wondered if there were people there that we hiding similar home troubles. A good book has an ability to make us look at our own lives a bit deeper, in my opinion, and I am glad I wasn’t the only one who has done this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another great review,
    Going slightly off topic. I noticed that you read this an an audiobook. I “rediscovered” audio books a few years ago.
    One great advantage audiobooks have over books and e-books is that because you can listen when driving, walking, jogging, waiting to meet someone etc …they eanble you to “read” significantly more books than you otherwise would have. I have just finished “Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King which I mostly read over a number of long car journeys

    The Science Geek
    http://www.thesciencegeek.org

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I completely agree with you on how easy and convenient audiobooks can be to listen to. My reading quantity has significantly increased upon the introduction of audiobooks. I get all of mine through the local library too, in which the files directly downloaded to my phone and disappear after the 3 week rental is up. It just seems like a more productive use of my time than listening to the same songs over and over again like I use to.

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  3. I liked this book, but I liked Fangirl better. It wasn’t quite as heavy on the material, but it still had a good punch to it when it went after serious topics. Objectively, I know this was probably the better book and the one that’s more likely to stick around though. It was just a bit tough realizing early on what was inevitably going to happen later on

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agreed. Especially with the prologue, the reader knows the eventual direction of the book and made me almost dread the relationship that was forming between these Park and Eleanor. This was my first book by Rowell. Would you recommend her other books like Fangirl? I’ve seen so many people reviewing them.

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  4. I love Eleanor and Park, but I agree that Fangirl has the enjoyment without being quite so heavy. (Although I do have a pet peeve about single dads getting so much more sympathy then single moms.) Also, I haven’t read Fangirl since I read Carry On. That might have ruined it for me. But I finally really understand the word Meta now!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think that Eleanor’s mom is in a state where she’s shut down to the world and therefore unable to help herself or her children in any big way. And that’s why she doesn’t seem to have much depth or personality. But that was just my take on it.

    [Spoiler]

    I like to think that Eleanor’s mom and the rest of her siblings come to live with Eleanor at her aunt and uncle’s house. But it’s true that we don’t actually know. They may just have moved in with another abusive guy. In reality, that would be more likely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alice! I completely agree on the mom’s state of mind. I think it was intentional to keep her in a 2D state. I felt like if the family had moved in with the Aunt and Uncle we would have heard about it from Eleanor’s POVs post move. Sadly, you’re probably correct about what would have happened in reality vs. happy ending literary world.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a read a few other Rainbow Rowell books and this review has definitely meant I’m going to read another! Really enjoyed reading your review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of my favourite books! Glad you liked it! That scene where they hold hands for the first time – my heart still flutters when I think about it and it gives me goosebumps!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have this on my bedside table ready to read. I am so glad I read this review because I have read a few luke warm ones on this book. I have read Fangirl – which I really liked – and wanted to try another Rainbow Rowell.

    Liked by 1 person

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