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[Book Review] - Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
   Author: Rainbow Rowell
   Format: Hardback
   Release Date: February 26th, 2013
   My Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

     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, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

My Review:

    Eleanor & Park was a book that I wanted to step into Rainbow Rowell novels and get a taste of what her writing style is like. While I was looking forward to the book, I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by this style. I sifted through this book for something higher than just okay or I like it, and while I looked there just wasn't anything to latch onto. With a giant sigh I have to give this a 3.5 rating, which doesn't mean it is a bad book at all, just a simple mediocre book that didn't leave me a lasting impression on me.

     Eleanor is a girl who I am not sure if she views herself as overweight, taller than normal or if she actually is. Her view of herself is what I question, and I am not trying to be negative or say anything bad about that view. I just question which the view is. Further her life at home is questionable. Her stepfather is mean or abusive, however you want to view it, and she huddles up in her room with her brothers and sisters. She even has to hide her personal belongings, so her siblings don't steal them.

     Park is a half-Korean in a nearly pure white school and neighborhood. He's give enough credibility and attention from the popular kids around school so he gets by rather quickly. He nods or says just enough to get by and not get noticed, like how Eleanor gets noticed nearly constantly. The major difference is his home life, which is nearly entirely perfect minus the slight badgering from his father. He's a great kid, with his head on his shoulders and while he's great and all, I just didn't believe his character completely. I mean, he's normal and almost too normal. I didn't see a major flaw in his character or something that jumped out at me that screamed wrong, which isn't the case of any real life person.

     So one day on the bus, Eleanor can't find a seat and is forced to sit with Park. The relationship starts there, a choice to see and listen to music. It progresses through passes comics back and forth and mixed tapes passing back and forth. Their relationship is mainly more or less friendly and not a boyfriend/girlfriend type yet. I never saw in the book where their relationship moved past friendly to a serious relationship. I lacked that gap and it bothered me, because it was a story issue that bothered me.

     The book is primarily a character building story and while it was good the major component wasn't there. That's the major flaw I had, the growth of Eleanor and Park was great though. Park was more or less the best. He was the one that surprised me, the growth of him maturing and wanting that serious relationship with Eleanor was there. I just don't see anything that seemed to bridge that gap. Eleanor was the one who seemed to grow up and want to get out of her home. She wanted to be away, and start a life of her own away from her stepfather.

     So there isn't much else to talk about this book. It revolves around those two and while I could go on more, I don't want to give away about the ending or the book in general. The characters were great, and even some of the secondary characters (Park's parents and Eleanor's siblings) were great. However, even with all the benefits, when a book is supposed to be about First Love and when the reader doesn't feel that a serious relationship actually forms and stays more friendly, it just falls flat and short of the ultimate goal. I am not going to stop or define the novels Rowell does; I am going to continue and see if there's other books that better frame my idea of her novels.
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