Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

In hindsight, 2022 Me feels differently about the story. I've made the decision to lower my rating by 2 stars because of the issues with representation. Rainbow Rowell is not Korean and she writes Park as a very stereotypical character. Even his name is a stereotype.

Knowing what I know now and being the reader I am now, I can't in good conscience hold it up as a 5-star book because of this. Not when I've actively called out other authors for bad representation.

So though it was a 5-star read back in 2015, I now consider it a 3-star book for me.

Publication Date: January 1, 2012

In 1986, two teenagers, Eleanor & Park, explore their own star-crossed love story, knowing that first loves almost never last, but desperate and brave enough to try.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

One of my friends read this last year and has been bugging me ever since to read it. He liked it so much that he even used one of the quotes from the book as a status. So because he spent months asking me repeatedly to read this, I finally did.

The first thing that hit me was the swearing. I feel like this keeps coming up in my reviews, me mentioning that there's swearing in a book. It's not that I'm so conservative that I can't bear swearing at all, it's just that I don't believe that it's necessary. And to be honest with you guys, I'm not unfamiliar with swearing, and I have friends who do swear, but it doesn't mean that I'm any less surprised when it happens in situations that I really wasn't expecting, like this book.

I read through this pretty slowly, compared to how quickly I had been reading in the week before that. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, but it did take a few chapters for me to really get into the story. And then I was too busy enjoying the writing style.

Yes, can we just talk about the writing style for a moment here? Rainbow Rowell's writing style reminds me a lot of Lauren Oliver and Tahereh Mafi. There so much beauty in the words, the way that the sentences were put together, and how they were delivered. Everything was so fluid, so beautifully written. The descriptions painted such a vivid image in my mind, I had no trouble at all with picturing how the characters looked. Several lines really stood out to me, and I have them all written down. The writing was so engaging and immersive. Everything that I read felt like it contained so much, it was hard to believe that I had only read a few pages.

I liked how the romance developed, and I think it was a very interesting method of bringing it about. It's different from how YA romance is usually written, and I think that it's a nice change. The relationship didn't feel forced, it felt like a natural thing that progressed from how they met. And the attraction wasn't superficial, it was about more than their appearances. Park was attracted to Eleanor because she was different, and Eleanor was attracted to Park for similar reasons. It was nice to have a romance that didn't start off because someone thought the other person was cute and just decided that attractiveness would be the basis for their relationship.

One thing that I think Rainbow Rowell handled well was race. It's pretty obvious that Park is Korean, especially with a name like that, and I think that the way he and his mom were portrayed were quite tasteful. The fact that Park's mom still had an accent, but no so much that it was ridiculous or racist, made me smile. As an Asian myself, I often find that Asian's are stereotyped because of their race, and it's always nice to find fiction that doesn't do that. I mean, of course Park is still smart and all that, but you can't really get rid of all stereotypes, now can you?

There really isn't much else I can say without spoiling the book, so let's go to how I feel about the ending. I was somewhat disappointed in it because I felt like it was a bit anti-climatic. There was a ton of build-up, and the ending fell kind of flat for me. There were many things that I thought were unresolved, and it felt like the book could use a few more chapters or an epilogue of sorts. I asked my friend about it, and he said that he felt the same way. It's not that the book is open ended, but there were things that were just left there and never got their conclusion. The conclusion itself didn't really feel complete to me, and that kind of sucked, but it didn't ruin the book for me. How I feel about the ending is made up for by how much I love the writing style.

But seriously, someone tell me that I'm not the only one who wishes that we got an epilogue or something after the final chapter. Maybe like a novella or even a blog post that wraps things up more. Please?

I like Eleanor because she's different. I don't think I've read about a character like her before, and I think it's great. While I didn't relate to her a whole lot, I do feel for her and I understand her situation. I understood where she was coming from and why she felt certain things, though that might be just because I'm a girl and I can understand why she did the things she did. In a way, we have some similarities, like independence and stubbornness, and I like that we had that in common. She's just a nice, fresher protagonist to have, and I really like that.

Park is great. He's so smooth and funny and awkward. The things he says are so simple, and yet they have such meaning behind them. It's like you can feel how sincere he is about everything he says. There's no need to wonder if there's another meaning behind his words, because you just know that there isn't. And another thing that was so nice about Park is that he's not like most male love interests that you read about in YA. He's not as tall as most other YA guys are, and I kind of like that. In fact, he's about an inch taller than I am, which is even more uncommon, whether it be in real life or in fiction.

Lastly, can I just take a moment to appreciate Park's mom? I think she might have been my favorite character in the entire book. I love her and how she was portrayed. It felt realistic and I swear I know moms who are like that. About halfway through the book, I found myself wishing that my boyfriend's mom was a beautician like her (not a spoiler). And then I remembered I that I don't have a boyfriend, so that wouldn't work. Overall, I just love how much she cared for her children and the unintentional sass she had.

5 stars. I do recommend this, but maybe not as the first Rainbow Rowell book you pick up. I haven't read any of her other works yet (I'm saving Fangirl for my freshman year of college), but I do want to read her two adult books and see how I like them. I'd say that if you like Lauren Oliver and Tahereh Mafi's writing style, this is definitely something you should pick up.

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