Eleanor & Park is another book by Rainbow Rowell that has twisted a lot of people into loving her works. And it is another one that I did not particularly enjoy. This book was first published in 2012 and has made into a lot of top threes. And before I start talking about the book, I just want to say that I expected to love it.
The book is about chubby and poor girl who has just moved back together with her family after year long absence which was granted by her step-father. She is a regular target for emotional abuse from the step-dad and is trying to survive the best she can. After moving back, she starts to go to her new school where unfortunately all pupils are mean to her (because she is chubby and poor), well, all except for one – Park. The book is about their relationship.
So I was expecting to feel like Eleanor, when I found out that she had red hair (unfortunately later I found out that she had really really red and curly hair) I thought that I will identify with her. The next thing was the poorness. When I was a kid, my family was really poor, I wouldn’t say that now they’re very rich, but they are out of the hole, so I expected to know something about that. The fact that Eleanor was taking bath every day broke the book’s poorness to me. Because even when we had money, I was forced to take showers as that takes less water hence less money. And I don’t want to believe for a second that her step-father who hates everything and everyone would miss that little detail about the water bill and miss the opportunity to pick on Eleanor for that.
The evil step-father… I had one of those and I know what it feels like to be happy not to be at home, but although it was very fiercely described that he hated her and that she was afraid of him, I actually never really saw much encounter. I mean, in my life, I felt like crying every single day of my life, but I didn’t do it, unless I was someplace alone, because of the ongoing harassment, but in the book, he never really talked to any of them and the tantrums they are fearing so much, were rare.
And the thing about touching. Eleanor was hesitant to allow touches and I get that so much, the chubbiness is a real discouragement and fear. It felt real, but at the same time, when it turned into a real touching and taking off clothes, the uneasiness went away, meaning that she was shy only while no touching really happened.
I was more then half way through the book, when I realized that I had no favourite character, I didn’t have the most hated one either. But the characters who got closest to this were Park’s parents. I liked his mother, she seemed so fragile but understanding and strong at the same time. And father… perhaps he was a bit of a snob, but I almost teared up at the end, where he caught Park going out in the middle of the night. The things he said – it just showed that he has a good person in him. And I like good (or caring?) people, those are my favourite ones. I wish there would have been more of their story to know how Park’s parents met, what happened to them… I actually think that I would rather have the book be about them!
The rest of the characters in this book were fine, except for the two main characters. I think that most regular people in the setting and problems described would really be like they were, but I don’t buy Park’s and Eleanor’s relationship, it all seems fake to me. That is not how people talk, that is not how people feel. At least not in my world.
The people who made fun about Eleanor in school seemed genuine, it would be like that in reality and contrary to the people who say that “they would see that she is poor and abused” – the kids don’t care, if you don’t fit in, you will get bashed and it doesn’t matter, if you have illness, poorness or there’s something else that excludes you from the group. It just doesn’t matter. School is a Zoo.
Nevertheless I had a favourite part in the book, it was everything until the moment they started to speak to each other. That moment broke everything in my opinion, the comic book moments were so cute and I was very happy that I will love this book. It turned the other way though. Around half way there, I literally started to count how many pages are left for me there, because I wanted it to end. The book was way too long and nothing happened in these chapters.
The ending of the book was just a little mind blowing (not in a good way). I didn’t understand why would Eleanor do the thing she did, in my world that is not how you treat a person you love. Not to speak of the fact that we don’t really know anything at all what happened to any of the characters. It is like I would say that yeah, today was a really good day, wait till you hear about it. And then I never tell you. That is how the book ends.
At the same time, it is described that when Eleanor gets home she takes a quick bath and then reads, does homework and so on. You know, if I would be in her place, I would day-dream about Park all the time until I see him again.
And the last thing I want to mention is the racism. There’s sometimes stress and surprise on the fact that Park is Korean and that people do not hate him. At the same time Rowell describes him as having only shade of the almond shaped eyes and his skin being lightly in a different colour. Perhaps that was enough in those days (I don’t buy it), but grew up in a really racist place on planet Earth and even there people wouldn’t care about a person who looked like Park, so slightly Asian. That is so minor that I don’t feel that I could justify Rowell for speaking about it. Especially because Park seems to be one of the popular students.
I think that this is a book for Rowell’s fans. I don’t want to say that it is young adult book, as the setting is 80s, so I suppose that older people might enjoy it as well. What I want to say is that in my opinion Fangirl and this one are written so similar, with the same loose ends and undelivered story that the people who like Rainbow’s other works should like this one. The ones who haven’t read – should dip their toe to see how it is and the ones who didn’t like a different book from the author, should just leave the other ones alone.
I don’t know, if I will give Rainbow another chance, perhaps she is just not for me. Or is Attachments so, so good?
Anyway, after I finished this book, I thought that this definitely is better than Fangirl (I even put it in my Booklist above Fangirl), but now, when I am finished with this review, I see that I liked it only for the beginning, for Park’s parents and for Eleanor’s similarities with me. Is that enough to put it higher? (I am changing it. I liked Fangirl better.)
This book received one star on my goodreads page and although I wanted to give it two at first, I was comparing in my mind with the books, I have rated with one star and you know what? I enjoyed Twilight better than this. So one star it is.
Let me know your thoughts on the setting and their relationship! And give me advice, if I should continue to look out for a book by Rainbow that will melt my heart at last.