Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Love will tear us apart

eleanor & parkTitle: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Series: standalone

Genres: young adult, romance, contemporary

Format: audiobook

Length: 8hrs 59min

Narrator: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra

My rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

REVIEW:

After finishing and absolutely loving Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl earlier this year, the bar was set pretty high for Eleanor & Park. I’ve had this book for a while, but kept putting it off, worried it simply wasn’t going to live up to my crazy expectations. WRONG. This book is every bit as amazing everyone says it is (except those people in Minnesota I’m pretending don’t exist).
Eleanor & Park tells the story of two high school misfits falling in love. Eleanor is the new girl who doesn’t fit in (that’s putting it mildly) and as a result she’s everyone’s favourite punching bag. Park is better off, but tries to fly under the radar as much as possible regardless. Truth be told, the book isn’t heavy on plot. It’s not particularly fast-paced. There are no crazy twists and turns that will make your head spin. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It certainly didn’t make me any less eager to find out what happens next, and keep going until the very end.
I absolutely adored both main characters. They were wonderful, their stories, both separately and together, sucked me in from the very first page. I’ve especially felt for Eleanor, her struggles at home and at school were heartbreaking. Their relationship unfolded nicely without feeling rushed or dragged out. The 80s setting was a nice touch, and the lack of cell phones made for some hilarious scenes. The music nerd in me really enjoyed the bonding over their shared love of music (Park’s mixed tapes were totally adorable) and I even knew most of the songs/artists mentioned which I wasn’t expecting. Wasn’t so lucky with the comic book references though, those were totally lost on me.
The side characters were a mixed bunch, my favourites were Park’s parents. It took some time to warm up to them, but I totally loved both by the end. Eleanor’s parents are a whole different story. Her stepfather, Richie, is abusive and clearly meant to be the villain of the story (along with the bullies in school). Not the first abusive relative I’ve come across in YA, and not the worst. Which leads me to my only problem with this book. ELEANOR’S MOTHER. I’ve read reviews where people felt sorry for her, or wanted to comfort her. NOT ME. I’m sorry, call me unsympathetic, or heartless, but NO. JUST NO. Letting her husband throw out her teenage daughter on the street just because she’s not agreeable??? SERIOUSLY??? What kind of mother does that??? And even after she can come home at the beginning of the book, her mom makes excuses for him EVERY TIME. She makes Eleanor feel like there’s something wrong with her, like she’s not trying hard enough to put on a smile and pretend everything’s fine. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN??? You should NEVER EVER make your children feel like there’s something wrong with them. NEVER. Some of the things she said made me seriously angry.

“We’re a family, Eleanor. All of us. Richie, too. And I’m sorry that makes you so unhappy. I’m sorry that things aren’t perfect here all the time for you… But this is our life now. You can’t keep throwing tantrums about it, you can’t keep trying to undermine this family – I won’t let you.”
“I have to think of everyone,” her mom said. “Do you understand? I have to think of myself. In a few years, you’ll be on your own, but Richie is my husband.”

And before someone thinks I’m drawing from personal experience here, I’m not. My parents love me to pieces, and I’m lucky to have them. I just feel very strongly about all parents doing their best for their children, and the fact that she never once stood up for her own really bothered me. OK, rant over. Sorry.
Regardless of this, Eleanor & Park is a great read no one should miss out on. Looking forward to more from Rainbow Rowell, no more hesitation.

Quotes:

“She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
“Fine,” his dad said from under the sink. “Just don’t get anybody pregnant.”
“You’re not the Han Solo in this relationship, you know.”
“Eleanor was trying really hard not to be overawed by Park’s driving skills, but every time he changed lanes or checked the rearview mirror, she caught herself swooning.”

Narration:

Both narrators did an excellent job, especially loved Park’s mom’s Korean accent. 🙂

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