Eleanor and Park: a dashingly fresh contemporary teenlit


As the page-turning of this book goes by, I kept imagining how Eleanor and Park look like and that was more exciting than following the story. Eleanor in my head was just like the rebellious Princess Merida from the Pixar-animated movie ‘Brave’, because of the description that she has big, curly and red hair and adorable freckles. Unlike Merida, Eleanor is socially awkward because of her mismatched clothes that make her looks big and weird. She doesn’t have much choice though, because she has a crappy life that she even can’t afford a toothbrush, aggravated with an abusive stepfather.

And Park was just… me. Not only because I am Asian, but also how he reacts to his world – including parents’ expectations and sibling rivalry – by throwing himself into good music and books. With black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor … never to Eleanor.

I bought this book over a year ago, and never thought I would love it. I thought the book was just overhyped and I was curious about it. After giving it a go, I was intrigued by how the two characters, who consider themselves as outsiders, meet at the back of the school bus, and slowly but steadily bond a new relationship through comic books and 80’s music.

The song choices are perfect and picturesque, even though I haven’t listened to some of them (it’s because the story is set in 1986, I hadn’t been born yet). But I can feel how vulnerable love is by listening to Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Park’s favorite band, The Smith, has a song that called “How Soon Is Now” that reflects his rejection to his father expectation. Boys can cry, boys can wear makeup, like David Bowie or Marc Bolan, and boys are just as fragile and shy as girls, and boys can show their true feelings to everybody because they have the equal rights to do so.

I think Rainbow Rowell has a clever and unique writing style. This story flows through back and forth narrative, which shows the readers different point of view from the two main characters. Although it’s kinda different from other contemporary books, sometimes I think it’s not necessary. Or maybe it’s just me who prefers one-sided story, because I don’t want it to be overlapped, thus the story seems to run slow. However, the book’s flaws can be compensated through beautiful and silky quotes, such as this thought Park has in mind when seeing Eleanor:

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 

The ending was quite surprising for me. I don’t want to spoil it by saying it was a bad or good ending, but after raching the last page, I just dazed. I knew I felt something, like being in a teenage love again. And let me conclude this review by reiterating what Rowell said about the ending:

I don’t believe that 17-year-olds get happy endings. They get beginnings.”


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