Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“You can ask me why I need you, but I don’t know. I just know that I do … I miss you, Eleanor. I want to be with you all the time. You’re the smartest girl I’ve ever met, and the funniest, and everything you do surprises me. And I wish I could say that those are the reasons I like you, because that would make me sound like a really evolved human being … But I think it’s got as much to do with your hair being red and your hands being soft … and the fact that you smell like homemade birthday cake.”

― Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

The first young adult book that Rainbow Rowell has written is called Eleanor & Park. The story, which was published in 2012, covers the parallel histories of Eleanor and Park, two misfits who lived in Omaha, Nebraska from 1986 to 1987. Eleanor & Park has drawn criticism for its stereotyped, racial, and damaging portrayal of Korean Americans ever since it was released. More criticism has been leveled at the choice to make the book into a movie despite this problem.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. Eleanor, a curly-haired, chubby 16-year-old girl, and Park, a half-Korean boy, first meet on a school bus on Eleanor's first day of school. As they get to know one another through comic books and '80s music mix tapes, a love story develops. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love - and just how hard it pulled you under. 

My reaction to this novel...

When I was looking for the next book to read, I discovered this one and chose to read it since I was seeking for a light book to read and before I forgot about it again. I had this book for a really long time, which I nearly forgot to read because it was already jammed behind my other books. Actually, this is my first Rainbow Rowell novel, and I had high expectations because a friend had raved about her novels. I just like thrillers over other genres, which is why it took me a little while to get around to reading this.

Anyway, I can categorically state that the first thing about this novel that is true is that it is about first love. Even though I thought Eleanor and Park's love story was a little strange, I could truly feel it and see myself smiling as I read the novel. Despite all of Eleanor's problems, their love is so innocent and sincere. Park's sweetness struck me as well, and the author's depiction of him allows me to realize how adorable he is. You will clearly recall the instances when you fell in love with someone you had no clue you were falling in love with.

I just found Eleanor to be too much of a burden at times. She is constantly so miserable. She doesn't want to become a better version of herself or stand out, yet she ended up getting noticed despite her best efforts to the contrary, and she is unaware of it. She sometimes frustrates me with the way she thinks. Even though I am aware of her rough upbringing in a dysfunctional home with an abusive stepfather, reading Eleanor's perspective on her family can be so stressful at times that I almost gave up reading portions of it. Fortunately, I forced myself to continue it.

The novel starts out a bit slowly, but when you least expect it, your stomach slips out from under you, much like being on a roller coaster. Suddenly, you're dragged into a difficult predicament that practically everyone in high school has encountered to varying degrees. It is a straightforward exhilarating experience. The content is fairly crisp and effectively handled. In spite of their simplicity, the characters' profundity elicited tremendous feelings in me. I was eager to learn more about them, and I wanted to move on to the next page as soon as possible. I alternately delighted and jeered for practically all of the main characters as well as a number of supporting characters. It was truly a blast.

Without your knowledge, the author starts to gently lure you in and hooks you, leaving you perplexed as to how it occurred so rapidly. I ripped through this because I couldn't put it down. The author maintains a very nice rhythm and flow while switching between points of view without endlessly recapitulating the same events. She doesn't provide you with all the answers or neatly arrange everything for you. You can get your teeth into it because it's frank and unvarnished, but you can still have your own judgment about where the plot leads and how it finishes.

Eleanor & Park is unquestionably worth your time. It's a beautifully poignant novel with a fascinating and realistic plot that keeps you wondering and left you dumbfounded long after you've finished it.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5)

“That's what people say -- 'It's not goodbye' -- when they're too afraid to face what they're really feeling.”

Saying goodbye to an important person in your life may be quite difficult. You both reassured one another that it wasn't truly a farewell and that you would run into one other again in the future. But the thing that both of you dread about saying goodbye has occurred because circumstances have conspired for the two of you to not to meet again.


Disclaimer: Booksreadbyhannel is not a business website. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and based only on my own feelings and reactions while reading the books I featured here in my blog. My reviews reflect my utmost sincerity. I paid for the books I review here out of my own pocket. Books provided by authors and publishers are otherwise specified.