by Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26 2013
by St. Martin's Press
"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK 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.
Rating: 2 / 5
I wanted to like this. It definitely seemed like my kind of read, but I just couldn't really connect to the characters at the start, and by the time I did (or could have?), things were way too sappy and cutey even for me.
I'm pretty sure the story was meant to parallel the tragedy of Romeo & Juliet minus the death and poorly planned out life choices, and on that front, it does succeed. The story is about two teenagers who fall head-over-heels for each other in a short span of time despite their starkly different lives and are later separated by circumstance. But while I can appreciate the approach and the way it made that tragedy more realistic and with more of a contemporary edge (and while also toning down the speed of things a bit), I just didn't get engaged with the story.
It was nice to read Eleanor and Park's relationship build gradually, which is always a welcomed change of pace in YA for me, but once they were officially all in, things quickly switched to the usual over-the-top YA relationship trend with big declarations and generally silly arguments resolved mostly by making out. I just feel like the romance was meant to be written subtly--the cautious hand-holding, the hesitance before the first kiss, all that stuff that I absolutely love--but somehow, it reads as being forced. Like, it was trying too hard to show the gradual relationship form, especially with how quickly the switch flipped once their relationship became officially boyfriend/girlfriend status.
There was a more serious plot about an abusive home life, but it's used more as just a catalyst to separate Eleanor and Park from each other and reason to complicate their relationship and opportunities to see each other, rather than really being something that Eleanor actively tries to save herself (and her family) from, which was slightly annoying given the fact that not only is it just the home life she is forced to bear, but she also has four younger siblings who are stuck in this home, and as far as we know, they are not rescued from it and what happens to Eleanor's family at the end of the book is not really resolved in the slightest (and to be fair, neither is Eleanor and Park's relationship, really, but that is at least given more closure to an extent).
I feel disappointed since so many people loved this book (some of my all-time favorite authors included!), but it just didn't resonate with me. But I can see people who love Perks of Being a Wallflower really enjoying this book. It has the same introspective type of writing style with a lot of the relationship being stemmed from a connection built on similar musical tastes.