Review: Eleanor & Park

imageA high school sweetheart is something I didn’t have, so reading Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell) stimulated my fantasy. The romance and Eleanor and Park, I mean.

The book centres on Eleanor. She’s big, has chaotic red hair and an outcast. She meets Park who blocks out the world with music. Soon they become unlikely friends and their friendship starts to grow into something much deeper. But they face obstacles as Eleanor keeps her home life private and whatever’s going on inside her home starts to tear things apart.

Eleanor & Park is my favourite Rainbow Rowell book – in my opinion, it demonstrates the best of her writing and style. The characterisation is enough to impact, thought I wish some of the secondary characters were more fleshed out. I want to know Park’s mother or Eleanor’s more. From snippets of details, they have tragic back stories and it would be good to have more scenes where their voices are heard. But I guess that would stray away from the teens. Spin-offs would do then.

I know Rowell usually leave things without a close to give a sense of “in the moment and life doesn’t end at the end of a story”. I love open endings but at the same time they frustrate me. I stared at the last page of Eleanor & Park for a long while, figuring out what happened to the couple [screams]. Anyway, I think they have a happy ending and get married and all.

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There are dark themes in this book – something I didn’t expect. There’s domestic abuse (not graphic but enough to hit a nerve) – I screamed “omg run, get out of there” at the book when scenes escalated. But I understand why Eleanor or her mother and siblings can’t leave. Afraid to leave. I love that Park doesn’t judge Eleanor or blame her. Hashtag relationship goals.

There’s the recurrence of “don’t be like a girl” which is expressed through conversations between Park and his dad. Interestingly, Park doesn’t care if he looks or is too soft like a girl, but he does get affected by his dad’s criticism. Society’s perceptions on Park’s mixed race background is quite limited. We get the sense that he’s an outsider yet accepted because of his dad, but that’s it. I wish this issue was fleshed out.

Anyway, I’m glad that Eleanor & Park explored not only a growing (and sort of forbidden) relationship, but what some teens go through outside of school and why they keep to themselves. I love how strong Eleanor and Park are. They can take on anything but sometimes they need a break or be allowed to break down.

I hope Rowell writes a sequel 🙂

Rating: 5/5. If you love romance with a dash of feels, then Eleanor & Park is for you.

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