Eleanor is the new girl in school. And she’s weird….really weird. She’s got the wrong clothes, the wrong hair, the wrong shape, and the other kids at school never let her forget it….except Park. Park is a Half-Asian kid in 1986 Nebraska….for anyone else, that would instantly make them a target. Luckily for Park, he grew up in the same neighborhood, with the same kids his entire life, and has learned to fly below the radar to avoid being harassed…until Eleanor. When Eleanor boards the bus on her first day of school, she’s instantly made aware of how much her life is about to suck. As she goes from open seat to open seat, not a single student on the bus will let her sit next to them. Except of course, Park, but he’s not happy about it; not happy at all. What starts out as a mild tolerance peppered with annoyance and resentment slowly becomes more. First, they bond over comic books, then music, and next thing they know, Eleanor and Park can’t get enough of each other. But, like all tragic romances, life gets in the way and Eleanor and Park risk losing not only each other, but the versions of themselves they have become through their relationship.
I really wanted to love this book. For God’s sake, I’m Eleanor! I always had the wrong EVERYTHING growing up. Clothes, hair, shape, mannerisms, you name it, I was, and still am, just plain weird. That being said, this book was not the life-altering, feels-in-your-face masterpiece I was hoping for. The character and relationship progression was a little off for me. I understand that everything moves at warp-speed in high school, and I can appreciate that Rainbow Rowell knows that too. As adults, we tend to forget what being an adolescent feels like, and like me, she definitely remembers. However, even when compared to the lightning-fast progression at which high-school relationships tend to move, this was FAST. I’m not sure what time-period this book was supposed to span, but in reading it, I fell like it couldn’t have been more than a couple months at the most. I just felt like there was a lot of aspects of the relationship between Eleanor and Park that felt disjointed. Because of that, I was not able to completely dive into the story and the “feels” like I normally would. I am the queen of curling up in a ball and crying ugly at books. I do it a lot! Unfortunately, I didn’t do that with this one, although I’m sure that was the intent.
Also, there were some really important aspects of this novel that I felt could have been explored more. It was almost as though the toughest topics and subjects were skimmed, but not explored in order to save the reader from having to think too much beyond the romance. This book touches on racial relations in the 1980’s which, from what I understand, haven’t changed much in that part of the country, bullying, poverty, and child abuse. Yes, they were mentioned in the book, some more than others, and I can appreciate the fact that they were even there, but if you are going to introduce something like that into a novel, especially a YA novel, I think it’s necessary to make sure you explore it fully and give the topic its due diligence. A lot of teenagers who have and will read this novel are dealing with the same issues, and this could have been a great resource to let them know that they’re not alone.
Like I said, I really wanted to love this novel. Given the hype it’s gotten, I wanted it to be everything I hoped for and more, and for it to be something that I carry with me for the rest of eternity. While I wouldn’t run through the streets screaming “YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!” I don’t for a second regret picking it up. It definitely had its good points. I really enjoyed the back and forth perspective the book was written in. The novel goes from Eleanor’s perspective, to Park’s perspective and I think this is a great way to show the reader how each character is feeling, as opposed to using an omniscient narrator. I will admit, narrating the book this way definitely added to the cheese factor, but in a totally awesome way. I don’t know if I liked this book because of or in spite of the cheese. I mean, the novel is sweet. Not like a piece of candy sweet, but like a piece of candy, wrapped in sugar, and put in a bathtub full of syrup sweet.
Seriously?! How can you not just adore that? I found myself reading and going “AWWWWWW” more than once, much to the chagrin of my husband and whomever else was around me at the time.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a quick and easy read. It took me exactly one day to get through. Also, anyone who has forgotten what it feels like to be a teenager in love, or is struggling with understanding their own teenager might really enjoy giving this one a go.