Yes, I do read romance. Occasionally. I have to hear lots of great things about it first, though. Ads for Eleanor & Park kept popping up on YouTube and one of my favorite bloggers reviewed it, so I finally caved in and tried it. Here’s the blurb:
Two misfits. One extraordinary love.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough… Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises… Park.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this 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.
It sounds so mushy, doesn’t it? Don’t that fool you. Blurbs are usually stupid but I don’t feel like writing my own anymore. Told in alternating chapters by Eleanor and Park, this book has so much more than soppy declarations of love.
I loved the unabashed geekiness. Eleanor and Park wouldn’t be a couple in the first place were it not for comic books and weird music (mostly punk). Every so often I’d go, “Ooh, I love that band!” I can’t decide who I prefer: Eleanor because she loves the Beatles or Park because he loves U2. (I’ve been on a U2 binge lately, as evidenced by my previous post.) The geekery doesn’t feel overdone; it reminds me of enthusiastic conversations I have with my friends when we get so caught up in Harry Potter (or whatever) that we don’t notice anything else. I didn’t get the feeling that the author was just acting. It felt like she knew what she was talking about in all things geeky.
I appreciated Park’s narration because I’ve been feeling like there aren’t many male main characters in romance or light* YA. In all of fiction there are far more guys than girls, but it seems like in YA girls always narrate the romances while guys tell the adventures. Way to go, Author Person Whose Name I Can’t Remember! …oh yes, Rainbow Rowell.
*I don’t mean actual light. I’m talking about books that are “light, easy reads”.
One of my favorite parts of Eleanor & Park was the realistic dialogue. It reflects how real teens actually talk (and think). People have random discussions, use slang, and swear. I know this sounds weird, but I’m quite happy about the swearing. I think it’s odd when YA realistic fiction (or really any fiction that’s not for children) pretends that people are always polite. They aren’t. Sometimes they get mad and lose it. That said, there isn’t that much swearing in the book – only when it’s appropriate, which I also like. Don’t write what isn’t necessary, you know?
I don’t quite know how I feel about Eleanor and Park as a couple. It’s not that I don’t like them – I do. They’re quite cute together, and I feel that they’re right for one another. I guess I just liked the sections with only Park or only Eleanor. Their relationships with family were far more complex. As a couple, their relationship is quite straightforward – they are sooooo in love. End of story. There’s much more tension between Eleanor and her parents, Park and his dad, and Eleanor with Park’s mom. So, ironically, the things I like most about this love story are the non-romantic relationships between characters.
Eleanor & Park isn’t just for nerds. Of course, it works well for them – try it if you liked The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – but as it deals with a wide variety of subjects, I think everyone should be able to find something to love.