TWO MISFITS. ONE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE.
It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are 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. A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.
Considering it takes place in 1986, it's funny to call this book a contemporary. Whatever.
Beware: unpopular opinion stands before you.
Well, I'm not being fair.
I picked this book up looking for a short, sweet, quick read. I was NOT expecting a heavy tearjerker.
What I liked:
I found their relationship adorably relate-able- the holding hands, being nervous and awkward, first kiss. I liked Park's nerdiness, his family, his wholeheartedness in falling for Eleanor. I like how the book took place in the 80's, and the small town feeling. Having both PoVs was great, and they flowed together smoothly and effortlessly. The short chapters also made it a quick read, so at least that was as expected.
I found that the side characters were important and lovable, and help the reader understand the place and environment. It was nice how in the beginning I judged people like Steve, Tina, and Park's dad, but it turned out that they were nothing like I expected them to be. I loved how Park's mom started to warm up and relate to Eleanor.
What I didn't like:
Eleanor's life story was hard for me to swallow in my light, happy mood. Her life was hard, and her decisions not always good. Maybe as a consequence of that, she became a character who was hard to swallow. She was never happy, always too hopeless to try. She never let herself get any help, even from those who could and offered. She never really let Park love her, or even truly agree to love herself. I wanted her to grow throughout the story, and while there were certain scenes towards the end when she allowed herself to enjoy herself with Park, she never allowed herself to love him fully the way he deserved. And that ending. Why?? Her choice is profound and meaningful in the story, and as a reader invested in her I wanted to understand her better. To me, she just made the wrong decision. And it made sad.
If you can handle and open ending and tragic story, it is a beautiful read- just not my cup of tea on the day I opened it. It's a standalone that was totally meant to be that way, but the kind of novel that if Rainbow Rowell decided to write a sequel five years later or something, I'd totally buy it.