I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Eleanor and Park.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it because I thought it was going to turn out to be overrated. It definitely lived up to the hype, which rarely happens.
I was attracted to this novel for several reasons. One, the blurb sounded intriguing. Two, Rainbow Rowell is one of those authors who has multiple novels on the New York Times Bestseller list, simultaneously.
Whenever that happens, I need to know why readers love the novels (and the author) so much. Three, there are over 300,000 reviews and the overall rating is still over four stars. If you can impress that many people, the book is worth reading.It’s easy to see why Rainbow Rowell is so popular.
I wasn’t scratching my head at the end wondering about her appeal, because it was obvious. She knows how to tell a story at the perfect pace and how to get you to fall in love with the characters.
Her writing maintained my interest throughout the entire novel.
There are less than twenty characters if you include all of the small roles like the gym teacher and the guidance counselor. Eleanor and Park are sixteen year old high school students in Des Moines, Iowa. Eleanor’s parents are divorced. Eleanor’s mother is remarried and her father is engaged. Eleanor lives with her mother, four siblings and her stepfather. Her home life is horrible and school isn’t much better. Her stepfather is an abusive alcoholic, her mother is afraid of her stepfather and Eleanor is bullied at school. Eleanor can never get a break in life unless she hides in her room and even then it isn’t always a safe haven. Park, however, is her savior.
The story takes place during a time when cassette tapes were popular and when kids made their own music mix on them. If you don’t know what a cassette tape is, then I wish I was your age.
The novel is written in third person and the POV alternates between Eleanor and Park. The writing style is very accessible and the change in POV doesn’t hurt the story any. It’s necessary for the storyline. This is character-driven, which I absolutely love.
When I fall in love with the characters, like I did Eleanor and Park, I’ll follow them anywhere and it almost doesn’t matter what happens them. This story has a lot of realism to make it relatable to a diverse group of readers. It deals with serious issues like dysfunctional families, abuse, bullying and alcoholism.
Bullying is a sensitive subject for a lot of people and I’m no exception. I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but I will say this. It’s incredibly difficult to stand up to an abuser. It takes both an aggressor and a victim for bullying to take place; therefore, both parties need to be held accountable. Our society and culture allow bullying to exist, so we are all to blame. We can point fingers all day long and it won’t solve the problem. It’s not one person’s problem; it’s our problem.
I felt so sorry for Eleanor, especially in the gym locker room scene, although that scene is a little trite in fiction that addresses bullying.
I felt authentic empathy for the characters and wanted the best for them, especially for Eleanor and Park (obviously.) I wanted to rescue Eleanor from her crappy home life and from that jackass stepfather of hers. I wanted to give Park a medal or something just for being awesome and going out of his way for Eleanor. I wish Eleanor’s mother would have left that loser husband of hers. All she had to do was pack up and leave while he was getting drunk at the bar, which was daily. She could have snuck out without any confrontation.
Great ending, but I wanted the story to continue. I was still thinking about it days after I finished reading it. Eleanor and Park
made me a new Rainbow Rowell
fan and I can’t wait to read another one of her novels. I hope they’re as great as this one. I highly recommend this novel to YA fans and anyone who enjoys reading a book about realistic teenage issues.