Thursday, December 12, 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Park Sheridan and Eleanor Douglas are two misfit teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. Dealing with issues of race and child abuse, the book tells the story of a star-crossed first love after the two meet over a school bus and comic books.

I’m not one for gooey romance, and I can’t stand insta-love. Fortunately, Eleanor & Park doesn’t have that. :) I thought the story started out wonderfully—very honest and relatable, and I loved how the relationship between Park and Eleanor develops gradually. In the process, we get a clear view of who these characters are. That was done so incredibly well.

As the story progressed, however, the story wasn’t as compelling. I had some trouble with the plot at times. For example, it wasn’t clear how the scribbles on her book and gym class were connected. We’re told they are, there’s the incident with her clothes, and then all of a sudden it’s something else. I got stuck on the logistics (or lack thereof) of everything.

Also, once Eleanor and Park are ‘together,’ their relationship becomes cliché in the I-can’t-go-without-seeing-him/her way. After the honest and realistic way they got together, this was disappointing.

I didn't like Eleanor, either. I totally get her fear of getting close to others, of becoming visible, of putting herself out there and risking more pain. I truly GET that in a personal, visceral way. I related with her so much in the beginning because of this. But then, she doesn't grow. She doesn't learn. Not really. She slowly lets Park in, but never completely, and, when it truly counts at the end, she reverts back to her old ways. Considering how everything has changed for the better, that made her seem like such a coward.

As a result, she treats Park abominably. If the gender roles were reversed and Eleanor was the boy, the general response would be along the lines of “He’s not worth it. Don’t waste your life waiting around for him to get his **** together.” That’s exactly what I wanted to say to Park. Park should be hurt and mad about what Eleanor does to him in the end, especially after all he'd done for her. The fact that he’s not sends a disturbing message.

By the end, Eleanor should have learned something. She was in a different place with different people, and she should have opened her eyes and done the right, and scary, thing. But she didn't (which makes her a coward). And that post card at the end? Many readers have found this romantic and emotional, but I found it insulting. Instead of three words, there should have been two.

So, for me, this book started out great, but then I was almost hating it by the end. Of course, endings are very important for me, and can make or break a book. This ending broke it.

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