BOOK REVIEW – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
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Synopsis:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

*deep breath*
I feel a slight rant coming, so beware! Also, there might be minor spoilers.

First of all, I don’t regret reading Eleanor & Park, but at the same time I don’t get the hype at all. I mean I can sort of understand why others loved it (like every fucking person on goodreads it seems), it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
While this book made me smile and laugh at parts, and the ending made me tear up a tiny bit (though that could be from frustration more than anything else), I didn’t get the emotional overload, the butterflies and the ‘awww this is such a cute love story’ feelings I was expecting. The expectations were simply too high and sadly the book didn’t deliver.

I’m going to come right out and say that the romance didn’t do it for me at all. I know, I know. It’s the ultimate love story, some people say. Eleanor and Park are *the* OTP I was told. Sadly, not for me. Their love story didn’t seem realistic to me and didn’t really touch me all that much for the most part. Not in the epic way I expected.
What I actually liked about this book was Park’s family and the issues between him and his mom, and him and his dad. I really liked their family dynamics and found everything about them – unlike Eleanor and Park falling in love – believable and realistic. Although I wish there would’ve been some kind of scene where things between them were resolved. Actually, that was my second problem with this book. There were quite a few scenes that I wished for and they just didn’t come. The ending was not satisfying for me at all. I wanted to know what would happen to Eleanor’s family. To her siblings. To her. I needed to see what her life would be like after everything that happened. But none of that was actually cleared up, not even really mentioned, and that frustrated me a lot. For me, that was the most important part of the plot. Eleanor’s story. Her family situation. It felt like Rainbow Rowell worked towards this epic climax, but the ending fell flat completely in my opinion. There wasn’t even a real ending! Just a few sentences and a measly postcard! And I’m not ok with that.

I feel like the story had actually a lot of potential: there were so many interesting things, but most of them ended up completely unresolved and sometimes even untouched. Maybe others wouldn’t have a problem with that. Maybe they would even like the ending – well obviously many do! – but I’m not one of them.
Like, what about the two black girls Eleanor made friends with? What was their point really? I mean, they were fun, but they had too few and sort of inconsequential scenes in order to actually matter. I thought they were there to underline the racial tension in Omaha during that time (1986) that is mentioned in the book. But like I said, there weren’t even that many appearances of the two and they didn’t face any racism or discrimination at school either! You would think that the black students at school in a mostly white community would have to deal with racist comments, and there were some sort of hints about the racism, but in the end it wasn’t really there. So why include it at all? Also, Park for that matter. The same thing happened: Although he often indicates that he feels out of place and different with his Korean heritage, he wasn’t bullied once. In the very beginning there was one conversation where one of his friends shows obvious ignorance and calls him Chinese, but besides that he seemed quite popular and not at all the ‘misfit’ the blurb accuses him of being. The only one who actually has to deal with bullying is Eleanor. Because of the way she dresses. Because of her red hair.
Now I’m not saying all this is necessarily a bad thing, but it confused me and made me wish for a different approach. Either include it and work it out properly, or just let it be. But that’s only my opinion obviously. I loved that Rainbow Rowell touched the topic of diversity, but that’s the thing: she only barely touched it. There wasn’t any real confrontation with the topic.

All in all, the plot was very focused on Eleanor and Park being together, which wasn’t particularly my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed it, but it was so extremely rushed at times that I felt disconnected and I hated that. In the beginning it was quite the contrary. It seemed like their love story would have a slow built-up, which was true at first. I was pleasantly surprised by that, all like ‘oh cool, they don’t even like each other, I dig it’. But it went all to hell when it changed from mutual dislike at first sight to constantly thinking about each other and Park declaring his love for her out of nowhere. They kind of lost me at that point. I still had fun reading about them, and Rainbow Rowell has a writing style that is easy to read and very enjoyable. But an epic love story? Not quite.

Now, I realize that this sounds super negative, but remember I still gave 3 stars. Like I said above, I enjoyed the writing, and the characters were well written. While I neither loved Eleanor, nor Park, nor their love story, I did find them intriguing individually and had fun learning more about them. And the same goes to their family members. Especially Park’s parents Mindy and Jamie are awesome! Both of them said some things that made me laugh out loud!

So yes, I’d probably still recommend Eleanor & Park because I know there are lots of people who would enjoy it or even fall in love with their story.
All in all it gave me a lot to think about, but the overall feeling it left behind was pretty meh.

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