My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a much talked about book, narrating a teenage love story, where the two central characters are portrayed as misfits in their high school. The book tries to focus on certain issues related to race, gender roles and identity, with a certain focus on abusive and disruptive families.
In a few words, my views do not correspond with that of Mr. John Green (an author I admire) in his New York Times review of the book.
The book is set in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska. To summarize, the book begins promisingly with a half-Korean teen boy, Park, who is fed up of the “morons” at the back of his school bus, when a new girl (dressed in some ways like a guy or rather as someone seeking attention), Eleanor, boards the bus. She fails to find a seat for herself and ends up sitting along side that “stupid Asian kid”. Sharing seats soon transforms into a friendship, and furthermore into a romantic relationship, as Park begins lending his books and starts making mix tapes for her.
Eleanor comes from a troubled family, living in fear in the shadow of her abusive stepfather. And thus, she begins a relationship with Park in private, with all her insecurities bound within. Thus begins long monologues which are supposed to make teenagers teary eyed and make them feel warm and fuzzy. With anecdotes like, “I want to eat his face”, “He is so pretty”, “She has freckles even on her lips”, etc., the book, without any attainable pace, moves on, until Eleanor finds out something terrible that she makes a decision to run away. Park comes to her rescue.
To add into the mysterious note (which this book is not supposed to create, but I would, so as to make the review a tad bit more interesting), what would happen next? Will her stepfather catch her? What would happen to the relationship? Will hearts be broken?
This book is appealing to the fans of authors like John Green and Sarah Dessen.
What I liked about the Book?
1. It is an easy read, and thus, I found it alright to read, paying only half my attention to what was going on.
What I didn’t like about the Book?
1. The entire setting and development is flawed. The narration, whether of school life or Park’s internal discord, whether of Eleanor’s tragic home or of the romantic development, never becomes concrete. An attribution to reality is what this book lacks in. And that is something important for YA and coming of age books. I would put this book in the category overflowing with Nicholas Sparks’ works.
2. The book fails in addressing social issues which it only strives to achieve. The racism is only referred to in sidelines. There is no difficulty faced by Park as such on being half-Korean. Bullying and abusive parents are the issues that might evoke a small response on the part of the reader.
3. The intimate scenes/passages in the book are quite cheesy. The writing is only half good. The back and forth point of view is distracting.
4. The ending is a little abrupt but that is alright. The problem is that it is done in such a way to make the readers swoon and eager to know what happens next. If the author actually wanted to keep the ending abstract, the book could have finished a few pages short of the actual ending. It was deliberately done to evoke discussions on social forums and to add into the charm that teenagers find in such books.
I would recommend fans of YA only, to read this book. This book is not for the readers, seeking a coming of age tale or an adult romance. This book is only good as long as you want a peaceful, simple and uncomplicated reading experience. This book just won’t make you think. And so, if you want a distraction from your thoughts, you might want to give it a try.
(My review might sound a little blunt but that is how I felt about the book. I failed to empathize with the characters. Many would call me heartless, to which I would reply that my heart works in correspondence with my mind.)