Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor.ParkYes, 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.

Rating: 3/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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16 Responses to Review: Eleanor & Park

  1. Charley R says:

    Agh, to try this book, not to try this book . . . I disdain romance so strongly that I really worry that it’ll overshadow all the good stuff this book is supposed to hold. Gah, to heck with it. Add it to the list. I’ll see what all the fuss is about anyway. You’ve sold me 😉

  2. Boquinha says:

    Thank you for reviewing this! I just finished The Fault in Our Stars and really, really enjoyed it. I saw this book somewhere online a while back and added it to my list of books that look good to me. This review has me even more intrigued. Our library doesn’t have it yet, but I may just go buy it. I mean, c’mon, it’s a book! Also? I love books with multiple perspectives. Speaking of, have you read Wonder? Highly recommend.

    • nevillegirl says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I actually disliked The Fault In Our Stars, but I might try it again to see if it’s grown on me. Anyway. Eleanor & Park is my nerdy love story of choice.

      Nope, but I think The Magic Violinist mentioned it on her blog and it sounded cool.

      Have you read All Men of Genius? 🙂

      • Boquinha says:

        Just curious – what didn’t you like about The Fault in Our Stars? It’s the first thing I’ve read by John Green, but I am extremely impressed with his writing/voice. I think his Augustus Waters character is fantastic. I liked the side characters, too – my favorite scene was (well, I’ll try not to spoil anything for other readers, so how shall I put this?) the one where their friend Isaac shares his thoughts with a couple of others right there in the literal heart of Jesus – let’s just say that.

        I haven’t read All Men of Genius. Mark has. And currently, TMV has it and is often reading it between her writing stints!

    • nevillegirl says:

      I read An Abundance Of Katherines a few years ago (and it’s the only Green I’ve read besides TFioS) and I think it’s much better.

      Ack, Augustus Waters is precisely what I didn’t like. Otherwise, the book was decent. I think Gus is pretentious and annoying. In this review of E&P I mentioned that it didn’t seem like the author was trying to hard to be nerdy, to show smart kids. I felt like Green was trying too hard. I know geeks like Hazel and Isaac (whom I loved, by the way. I wish the book were about Hazel with Isaac.), but I don’t know any like Gus and that makes me glad.

      *gasp* She hasn’t finished it yet? 😛

      • Boquinha says:

        Ha! I picked up An Abundance of Katherines at a local book store this week, simply because I like Green’s writing, so I wanted to try another of his books.

        I think you make good points about Augustus Waters. He was definitely arrogant at times and there were other things I didn’t like about him (his penchant for being a hero as well as his vengeful side), but I guess I like that he’s a flawed character, because while he has some frustrating qualities, at his core, he was good to his friends (reminds me of Joey on friends – such a womanizer, but also SUCH a loyal friend). I’m not saying AW is a womanizer – just that he has some unlikeable qualities balanced by his deep love and loyalty to his friends – both Hazel and Isaac, and I think that’s pretty admirable. Usually people who are arrogant are also terribly selfish. AW isn’t those things, which makes me think that his pretentiousness is more bravado than real, especially considering his situation/history.

        That being said, I get what you’re saying about not trying too hard, so I’m now even more curious about E&P. I’m also excited about it being set in the 80s! Those are some great music/movie years.

        She’s been at writers’ camp all week and then we’ve had a house full of guests all weekend and into today, so it’s been a bit go go go. 🙂

    • nevillegirl says:

      Bleh. I don’t like bravado. Go Isaac.

      • Boquinha says:

        Well, no one likes bravado. I think it just shows the hurt he’s trying to mask. But enough about Augustus Waters . . .

        I wanted to tell you that I just finished Eleanor & Park. THANK YOU for reviewing it. I absolutely LOVED it. I finished it at 2AM and am, this morning, basking in the afterglow of such a moving, wonderful read. She wrote the kind of book *I* would like to write – a simple, character-driven book with a kind of satisfying ambiguity. Her book is like a great indie film – it gave me the same kind of thoughts and feelings. I can’t stop thinking about this book, this story, her writing. Oh, I just loved it.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thanks, and I’m glad you liked it! It IS like an indie film. 😀 I hope there will be a sequel.

      Hey, now you can read All Men of Genius! Or The Miseducation of Cameron Post; that’s another great book that needs more fans. It’s disappointing when I love a book, but don’t have many people to talk about it with.

  3. Thomas says:

    Great review! I’ve read so many wonderful lauds of this book – even an AP English teacher at my old high school adores it – as well as the occasional lukewarm review. I’m glad you liked it even if you didn’t love every aspect of it. (:

  4. Pingback: Quarterly Rewind, Summer 2013 – An Abundance Of Books, Doctor Who, Film Scores, And More! | Musings From Neville's Navel

  5. Pingback: Review: Fangirl | Musings From Neville's Navel

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