Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Review Summary: 2/5. Did not like it.
Didn't the entire universe recommend this book? I felt stupid not having read it yet, considering the raving reviews it received. I thought my eyeballs would begin to hurt if I saw another recommendation for Eleanor and Park and still didn't read it. I had no preconceived notions about it--of course it would be a great book because everyone loves it. The cover is minimalist, the new trend for contemporary books, and even though it was romance, I thought I could survive it.
Lesson learned: Popular belief can be a LIE. I dived into this book knowing it'll be awesome, but I was terribly disappointed.
First, I'll mention some positive aspects of it (there were indeed a few) before delving into things that made me give a 2 star rating to Eleanor and Park.
1. Non-typical characters. High school stories generally feature impossibly perfect teenagers (at least in the way they look), but that wasn't the case with this book. Eleanor is the opposite of society's ideal (and it is reflected through the book as people form prejudiced opinions about her) and it stays like that. Park is quiet, cute and Asian (which apparently makes him less-than-perfect, according to the story).
2. The background of the story that makes you feel the FEELS. I love books that make me FEEL. (You know what I mean, right?) Even though the FEELS here were mostly angst and sadness and anxiety and anger, but still.
Okay, I've thought enough and there seems to be nothing else that made me like this book. Let's get to the point.
1. Character development (or the lack of it): Eleanor and Park fell in love so swiftly I couldn't catch it. One moment they're hating each other and the next they're holding hands and the next they're declaring their love! For some reason, whatever love-talk they did made me feel NOTHING. It felt like a lie. Which sucks.
Besides, as quickly as they fell in love, their mental/emotional development was just as slow. It actually didn't even seem to take place, to be frank. I understand that Eleanor's life is upsetting and too hard to cope with. She can't deal with good developments in the same way as her peers. But what about Park? What about Eleanor's family? (I just about HATED Eleanor's mother.)
2. The focus of the story, or the plot. The book's central idea was about two star-crossed lovers/teens, but I felt the story was heavily populated by Eleanor's family troubles that are not even resolved till the end! And what about the clumsy ending? WHAT WAS THAT?
3. Characters behaving stupidly. If things are getting intense on the emotional parameter, at least get the characters to be in sync with the emotions they are supposed to be portraying. So many things seemed off balance. For instance, Park 'rescuing' Eleanor and then feeling angry when she's sleeping instead of talking to him (no, the fact that she's scared for her life doesn't count).
4. The writing style. The alternate narration with some overlaps was successful in displaying different POVs of the same events but it soon became tiring and monotonous, looking like unnecessary additions that made the book longer than it should have been.
5. Supporting characters. None of them was likeable. They were either too mean, or too weak, or too prejudiced, and then when they had to change to become better, they became the opposite extreme. Subtlety and realism is heavily lacking in this book.
*sigh* I feel so sad having written this, but it's just the true state of affairs. However, I'm also a very moody reader in the sense that my own mood makes me like or dislike a book even more. Many people have loved this book. You may go check out further reviews on Goodreads if you want some other perspective. Take your call, but if you read the book after reading this review, or if you've read it at all, I'd love to know what you think of it!
PS-Rainbow Rowell has written more books which have received great ratings (such as Fangirl, Attachments and Carry On. You might want to check those out. I haven't read them yet but from the reviews I've read, it seems like Eleanor & Park isn't her best book.)