Book Review: Eleanor and Park, Back to Basics With a Love Story
Stories about first love, young love or anything that screams mushy enough to make your eyes roll is inevitable Once in a while, this genre will have a book or two that will distinguish itself from all the other known mastheads that always try and capture something is could be different, something a bit rawer and closer to our hearts; Eleanor and Park is something close to that.
Eleanor and Park takes place in 1986 and focuses on the story on the characters by the same name, alternating the narrative from both perspectives. Both from very different cultural backgrounds, they find that their lives somehow overlap within their unintentional geeky interests such as comic books, rock and punk music. Somehow, Eleanor leads a very difficult life and is constantly stressed from school bullying and the constant crisis in her household. Park, on the other hand, has it easier; stress comes to him in a different form. He struggles with trying to get acceptance from his dad, and knowing he’s a misfit just because he’s half Asian in an already culturally-settled neighborhood, even if he’s been there all his life.
Eleanor and Park find each other and it reminds us what it is to fall in love at a young age; the awkwardness, the silliness and sweetness of the whole falling-in-love process is delightful to read while both characters unravel right before our eyes. The book is filled with referential points of era in which it takes place and isn’t done arrogantly. Everything makes sense and all you want to do is root for the main characters to be happy—and stay happy. Making a lot of subtle references to Rome and Juliet, Macbeth and other tragedies of literature, it takes the plot into another level once the story thickens and gives it the right appraisal for such comparisons.
The book starts a little slow and needs some time to settle in once we are thrown into the characters’ lives without any explanation on their background. But once it takes it off, it takes off. There are sweet moments that are perfect to just indulge all day long, and some that are strikingly sad enough to make us think and weep for the characters. The narration of the story changes back and forth from both characters’ points of view and is done in a refreshing way, just enough to see the double-edged blade every time they are presented with a new situation.
The author, Rainbow Rowell, has a sweet voice and captures the essence of both teenagers really well. It is simple, clean and fresh. Both worlds are beautifully painted and both have their own believable circumstances that make their exploits even more remarkable.
Of course, the only falling point would be that the entire book stays on the same level of intensity and by the end, that’s when it takes up a notch. The story wasn’t anything terribly exciting if it wasn’t for the final fall, which is a bit disappointing.
Eleanor and Park is a strong yet sweet story about discovering what it is to be in love for the first time ever. It is a good read but, like I said, there’s nothing that will reinvent the genre here. Even though it seems fitter for a younger audience, adults will likely enjoy it nonetheless since it contains a certain charm and comic-relief to it, and there’s nothing wrong about going back to basics with a story surrounded with love and the sound of the ‘80s.