Monday, April 8, 2013

review: eleanor & park

Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin
I'd heard wonderful things about Eleanor & Park. Heard that it was great and beautiful and painfully good, really. But I tend to regard these books that get rave reviews with a certain amount of suspicion; still, reliable fellow bloggers loved this book so I thought -- hoped -- that I would, too.

It didn't quite turn out that way. Eleanor & Park is well-written, no doubt about it. It's an angsty, awkward story of first love set in the 80s. And it is beautiful, at least in parts. The slow-then-quick falling of Eleanor and Park into love adds to the general feeling of desperate, inevitable angst. But Eleanor & Park is not only a love story; it's also the story of Eleanor's horrible home life. The stepfather who kicked her out once (for a whole year) and who now rules and abuses her family -- her mom, as well as  her four younger siblings. There's a constant sense of fear and danger surrounding Eleanor's life, one that gives the rest of the book an uncomfortable edge. This isn't just, as the front cover claims, a love between misfits; it's also the story of a desperate teenage relationship at odds with emotional and physical abuse.

Though I enjoyed the story between Park and Eleanor, and the dynamic of Park's family (especially when it came to Eleanor), neither of the characters really made that big of an impact on me. I liked them fine, but it was the details of their story that I really enjoyed: the comic books and music they shared, their phone conversations, and how incredibly nice Park was to Eleanor, especially in the beginning when he didn't have to be.

That said, there were some things in this book that didn't sit well with me. The headlong, hasty rush into True Love felt... well, not-quite-true. It felt immature. Like teen love, sure, but not the sort of teen love that would last. Aside from that there was also quite a bit more vulgarity in this book than I was expecting. I was taken aback by the very liberal use of cuss words, especially when neither of the main characters spoke like that themselves. And though I used to think that cussing in books wasn't something that especially bothered me, this book proved me wrong; the too-often-used vulgarity put me off a book that I otherwise would have enjoyed quite a bit more, though I may be in the minority here.

There was a lot to love about this book, not least of all it's solid writing and the natural way the story was allowed to progress. But there was also quite a bit I could have done without, such as the cussing, the immaturity that was supposed to pass for maturity even in the eyes of the adults in the novel, and the fact that I didn't care enough about either of the main characters.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Jordyn. I'm sorry you didn't love this one like I did, but I certainly respect your opinion about the novel. Everything about this one worked for me, and it's definitely the YA novel I'll be foisting on everyone this year.