Eleanor & Park
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Rating: 3 stars
Word Rating: Disappointment
Reviewed by: Melanie
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
'"I want everyone to meet you. You're my favorite person of all time."'
Disappointed. Dismayed. At loss. Empty. Any more synonyms for just plain disappointed?
Eleanor and Park was a gigantic puzzle that had not been pieced together quite properly and missed a few puzzle pieces. I felt that the actions didn't always match the tone, vice versa. Also, there were missing themes to what I expected to be addressed, as after all, what would so many people cry at the end? (I certainly did not.) Turns out, Rowell's novel was leaning towards to thinner and fluffier side of contemporary. Don't misunderstand me, topics like violence, family, poverty and ethnic populations were pitched however lacked depth and importance. Eleanor and Park is a novel about first love and what can go wrong.
In Rowell's novel, one of the main spotlights is on Eleanor. And she is not an easy character to like. I thought she lacked something called, Confidence with a capital 'C'. Her self-depreciation and self-consciousness was nothing awfully exiting to look forward to and her sensitivity just made me want to rip my soul out. I see how some people can deal with her- she's not exactly top model material, poor, has harsh family conditions and lost. I believe the most gut wrenching element was the abusive step father, it created unsettling dynamics in the household and added a bitterly desperation for Eleanor. Nonetheless, her worry of her self-pity catapults all empathy possible to last strong.
Enter Park, half Korean. Unlike Eleanor he's home life is orderly and his social life comes a close second in school. Gladly, his personality was more likeable than Eleanor's yet still, his 'flawless' elements tampered with his demeanour a fair bit. I somewhat portray his as a love struck, lost boy. Nothing too swoony, but I appreciated his indifference towards Eleanor's habits.
Nerdy, awkward and new, the romance here was, pretty bittersweet. The baby steps taken to build up this chemistry was certainly those adjectives I mentioned above. I guess that's what first love is all about, kinda shaky and foreign in a sense, but so sure and needy as well. Mind you, I was no fan of the angst. In fact, it faintly reminded me of Pushing the Limits, only the main characters weren't as 'attractive' and the romance wasn't as 'steamy'.
Call me cynical but I rave deeper and moodier issues being fleshed out. Unfortunately, Eleanor and Park was not that and I was not exactly in the mood for some off beat angst that contained a cute at the same time. A little like a misshapen puzzle piece, Eleanor and Park is a book based solely on first love- and all the pros and cons to it.