Sunday, 17 August 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell **Review**

Eleanor & Park
Series: None
Pages: 325
Publisher: Orion
Release date: February 1st 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Goodreads synopsis:
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

I was very excited to get started on Eleanor & Park. After reading and loving Fangirl last year, I was sure that I would end up loving this one too. And although I think Eleanor & Park is quite different to Fangirl, I was absolutely right – I did really love it.

The first thing that really stands out about this book is just how real the characters are. I wasn't that far in when I realised that I was already thinking of both Eleanor and Park as real people and that I was already starting to care about them. I really wanted them to be together and I wanted them to be happy. I was laughing with them, worrying with them, feeling scared with them and falling in love with them.
Both Eleanor and Park have very distinct personalities and I found it very easy to get to know them because of that. I also found that I could picture them very easily – and I loved that they weren't your standard beautiful (but overly modest) teenagers, that they had their flaws, both physically and with the way that they acted, but were still just as loveable. They show that you don't have to be 'perfect' to fall in love, or be loved in return.
This is also true of many of the other characters, especially the two characters' families. Eleanor's mum and stepdad were easy to picture, which was sometimes quite uncomfortable, and I couldn't help but feel genuine hate towards her stepdad (another sign of a great, well-developed character, but I still hated him!). Parks parents were especially easy to picture, and I adored them (even with their flaws).

I think that another reason I got to know Eleanor and Park both so well and so quickly is that the point of view switched between them – sometimes several times a chapter – so I got to see both points of view during the same scene. This works incredibly well, not just at allowing the reader into both of their heads, but also in moving the plot along at a steady pace and keeping the reader firmly gripped. I didn't want to put it down.

I found the time period that the book is set in really interesting. The story begins in August 1986 and eventually spans well over a year. This of course means that there is no internet, no mobile phones, cassette players, tapes, old rock and punk music and people still wrote actual letters to each other.
I don't pretend to fully understand why Rainbow chose to set the book in this era, but I think it may have something to do with the romantic feeling that all of these things lend to the story. I mean, who doesn't find the idea of someone making you a music tape romantic? And even if you weren't born in the 1980s (which I wasn't ... I'm a 90s kid through and through) you can still feel a sense of warm nostalgia that pops up every time they talk about music (which is a lot). And then there are the classic comic books, which absolutely make me wish that I was born earlier so that I could have experienced the excitement of the next issue of Watchmen being released.

Eleanor & Park is an extremely compelling and incredibly moving novel. It moved me more than I think I have been by a book for a long time. I've laughed, worried, and felt all the injustice and the love that both characters experienced. I experienced everything along with them, and it was glorious.
This beautiful book that reminds us that you don't have to be 'perfect' to fall in love, and that although things may not go the way you want them to in life, you can always find hope and happiness, even if it's in small doses.

I cannot recommend this book more. If you haven't picked this, or any of Rainbow Rowell's other books up yet, you absolutely should. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Bernie Robinson said...

Thanks for the review Dani. On your recommendations I have reserved this one and another from my local Library. :-)

Bidisha said...

I loved Fangirl and this has been on my list since then. Everyone is gushing about it so much I think it's about time I actually read it. Such a wonderful review :)

Devan @ Book Strings said...

I love E&P! Great characters, story, and setting.

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