My reading has slowed down a tad due to various things popping up, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on ‘Eleanor and Park’ by Rainbow Rowell, which I finished reading not too long ago. You may have heard the name due its growing popularity, and honestly it’s for good reason. I typically don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but after reading many reviews I thought it might be worth the time. I don’t have anything against YA fiction, but (and this is a huge generalization considering I haven’t read much… since I was a teen) so often the dialogue and story feel “dumbed down” for younger readers. I think I’ve just read too many YA novels wherein the dialogue didn’t feel real and the writing itself seemed to be missing depth. This was not the case with ‘Eleanor and Park.’
I really enjoyed Rowell’s writing style and felt the interactions and dialogue between the characters was fairly realistic. Eleanor and Park get off to a rocky start, but end of forming an unlikely friendship, which in turn becomes an even more unlikely romance. Both are somewhat outcasts, though Eleanor so much more. While I couldn’t necessarily relate to either character in full, there were definitely moments that transported me back to high school (unfortunately). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I turned the first pages, but if you’re hoping for something light-hearted and happy, this isn’t really it.
I think Rowell accurately captures the awkwardness of being a teenager and the heartache of young love. On the one hand I felt their emotions towards each other switched rather hastily (and in reality this relationship as well as others in the book would have been improbable), but the part of me that cheers for the outcasts and losers liked that these two teenagers found each other, especially Eleanor. While at times Eleanor was so exasperating to me, I did feel bad for her character and the extremely dysfunctional background she came from. You can’t really blame her for her extreme lack of self-confidence and cynicism.
This book isn’t perfect by any means, but I did feel it captured many teenage emotions accurately as well as the fact that teenagers can be a tad frustrating and selfish at times (I was a teenager once, so I can say this). I’m not an expert in terms of racism or what Ohio was like in the mid 80’s, but I have a feeling that some portrayals of racism or the lack thereof, are somewhat inaccurate and sort of brushed over. The ending was also somewhat anticlimactic and open-ended, which was somewhat annoying because it would have been nice to see certain storylines wrapped up. Even with the little things I didn’t like, I couldn’t help but keep reading. I got sucked in and that’s always a good sign.