Author: Rainbow Rowell| Blog
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
My Interest: 80’s Child
Age Group | Genre: YA| Romance, Realism
You guys. With all that has been going on in my life (which is sort of a lot now, minus the gritty details) I FORGOT to post my review last week when this novel came out.
I honestly have no. idea. how I forgot because this was a fun novel. As an 80’s child… in fact, I was born the year this story is set…I knew from the get go that I had to read this. And oh man. It made me smile. It made me happy. It made my inner nerd laugh. But mostly, it didn’t turn out in the way I had hoped.
I was graciously provided a copy via NetGalley from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. I was not compensated in any way for my review (cross my heart) nor did I promise a good rating. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine.
Eleanor and Park are two misfit teens who just happen to fit together. After being kicked out of her home for a year, Eleanor finally returns to a house full of siblings, a jerk of a stepfather, and a mother who isn’t brave enough to stand up to him. As the new girl, the only solace Eleanor finds is in music, except that her life doesn’t even allow her a tape player.
Enter Park. Eleanor’s savior, who provides her not only with a tape player but comic books, and possibly love. That is if he can get over being out of the in-crowd because he sees something different in Eleanor.
The two are drawn together in a love story where both aren’t quite sure that love is even real—but they are willing to let the lyrics teach them.
I am an 80’s child through and through, and so the first time I read about the plot of the Eleanor & Park, I was practically in love. But once I started in on the novel, I had a hard time with the story. Eleanor is only recently back at home after having been kicked out by her stepfather. She’s the new girl at school, and her differences really stick out. Ultimately, the story is a YA romance–picture it as read-along version of any 80’s romance movie with lots of goofy Star Wars references and rock-n-roll lyrics abound. Eleanor and Park sort of fall for each other on the bus, but I had very hard time believing in the love plot. The two just seem so completely opposite of each other, and I honestly couldn’t figure out what drew the two of them together. It seemed as if there was just too much of real life constantly standing in their way.
Eleanor’s home situation was just terrible, and it broke my heart every time I felt her crawl back into her room to hide from the life that surrounded her. I think I mostly hated how she didn’t feel strong enough to speak up, even to Park. What saddened me even more is that stuff like this happens everyday. In that sense, I applaud Rowell for addressing the situation, and tackling it.
When it comes to Eleanor’s character, I am just so torn with who she is. I grew up being forced to listen to 80’s rock bands, but as a child, I feel I missed the greatness of the decade in terms of day-glo and poofy hair. Eleanor was not afraid to take advantage of the fashions of the 80’s as well as make up her own. She was different, and she was confident in her difference and willingness to stand out. However, that confidence waned when she was around people. I just find it hard to see that apparent boldness shrivel up and hide when other people are around.
I was honestly so excited to read this story because it was historical in the sense that I hoped for– many, many 80’s references. Of which I did get, and I loved. Rowell captures the time period wonderfully, and though this is a realistic YA romance, I would not call it contemporary because it is blatantly set in a different time period than now. It’s definitely what I would deem the “mash-up.”
I just couldn’t rate this story high on my list though because the language is very harsh, and there are a few scenes that I would definitely have to warn my students/parents about. However, those same things are reasons I would recommend this book to particular students who are perhaps struggling with home life or loneliness. I think my final thought comes from the fact that I kept waiting and waiting for something grand and fun and romantic to happen.
But it never did.
Don’t get me wrong, Eleanor & Park was a fun read, but when I turned the last page, I was so disappointed. There was something that never felt right about Eleanor and Park…as if they didn’t belong together in the first place or if the love between them actually existed. I think as teenagers, they desperately wanted it to exist…but in fact, it was never really going anywhere.
If you like this novel, you might like….
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
[for ratings system, please check out my Bookshelf]