To kick off the new year, I decided to start with a book I've been meaning to read for awhile. I've already read "Carry On" and "Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell and enjoyed both, so I ordered "Eleanor and Park" last month. I can't figure out why it took me so long to get to this book, because once I picked it up I couldn't put it down. Especially after coming out of my winter book slump, it felt great to speed read something like this. I could have finished it in one night if I didn't need sleep! Instead, I split it between two days.
"Eleanor and Park" starts off as a sort of typical contemporary romance novel; Eleanor is the new girl in school, and becomes a target for bullying. Park is one of the few who doesn't participate, and eventually befriends Eleanor. From there, their relationship grows. This normally wouldn't be my cup of tea. I'm not big on reading books that have romance as the main focus.
Yet, it's more than just two high schoolers forming a relationship. Both Eleanor and Park are outsiders in their small town; Eleanor stands out with her red hair, curvy figure, and strange clothes, and Park is the only Asian kid in town. They both have different challenges within their families. Park doesn't see eye-to-eye with his father, and he also struggles to get his mother to accept Eleanor. Eleanor's family life is more complex; early on in the novel, you learn that she's just barely moving back in with her mom after being kicked out by her stepdad a year ago. The family's situation is poor finacially speaking, along with the extra stress of the stepdad's abusive and strict behavior.
"Eleanor and Park" made me feel a lot of different things. It felt like I was reading a real account of two high schoolers. There were moments I was happy, and there were moments I was excited. There were moments I was upset and hopeless, and then there were moments I was actually scared. I can't go too much into detail about where these emotions came from, but I can say this: I didn't want the book to end!
I loved the characters and I also loved how realistic the plot was. My only issue with the book was wanting it to go on longer and end with a little more clarity. Still, if it had kept going, or if Rowell had decided to tell us the exact ending via a horrible twenty-years-later epilogue, it would have lost that genuine feeling. This is a story that feels like it happened in real life.
For these reasons, I gave this book a 4.5 star rating on Goodreads. I wanted a little bit more out of the ending, but I also understood why expanding too much on it would ruin the authenticity. Still, I feel as if there could have been a bit more expansion just so the reader leaves feeling a little more satisfied. Overall, "Eleanor and Park" was a great read, and I highly recommend it to Rainbow Rowell fans and contemporary romance fans.