Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Description from Goodreads

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – 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.

My Review

Oh, my heart. Seriously, this book messed me up in the best way.
First off, I didn't want to put it down. Every second I could find to read this, I was reading it.  Second, I had trouble forming coherent thoughts when they HELD HANDS. Because it was written in a way that made me remember the first time a guy held my hand and it actually felt like something real.

And, also, it made me feel like this:

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(As of writing this post, it now has 17 likes. I have quite a few fellow book lovers on my Facebook.)

A big part of the reason why I wanted to review books on my blogs is to share books I love so much. And because vocalizing my love of certain books is so complicated for me- especially a book that touches me so profoundly. I almost want to be protective, because when I start to describe this book, it comes out like this: "OMG. so, it's about this girl Eleanor, and this guy Park, and it's set in the mid-80s, and there's all these references to 80s music, and they hold hands and it's adorable!"

And yeah, that IS what this book is about. But it's also about a girl, who is complicated and messed up. She has a really unhappy family life. And she starts her first day at school on a bus where no one wants her to sit next to them. And Park finally gives in, and she sits next to him. They barely speak, but he eventually notices she's reading his X-Men Comic, and gradually he introduces her to The Smiths and Joy Division, and other comics like Watchmen. They both bond and bicker over their love of these things, and, eventually, they discover more.

The book is written in two perspectives- Eleanor and Park's. And it's almost always a continuation of the previous perspective. So it flows really nicely, and you're never left wondering how the other person feels about whatever situation comes up.

So, I liked this book from the beginning, but pretty much the time I knew I was not going to be able to put this book down once I got home from work was when Eleanor and Park held hands.
From Eleanor: "Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm. And Eleanor disintegrated."
From Park: "Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive. As soon as he touched her, he wondered how he'd gone this long without doing it."

Just beautiful. And it's just holding hands! But it was sweet, and perfect.
I think Rowell really captured what it's like to hold someone's hand for the first time that becomes completely everything to you, immediately. And who doesn't feel that way about their first loves?

And mostly, that is how it goes through the whole book. Sweet, falling in love things.
Until the gunshots. And then you find out how truly horrifying Eleanor's home life really is. You have an impression before. You know things are bad. But this bad? Just... wow.
I wanted to reach in the book, pull Eleanor out, and just hug her. Because other than Park, she doesn't have many friends. Though she does have two hilarious girls that friend her in PE that I wish had their own book or short story accompaniment because I want to know more about them. And what happened to them after.

Back to the gunshots. Her stepdad is the kind of guy you wish you could stick your foot into a book and kick in the balls. Or, call the cops on. And shake her mom and just say "He's not worth it!" But it made me cry so much, because clearly, she's trying the best for her family and is in this horrible, abusive relationship.
(I hope that's not a spoiler. I think it becomes obvious early on in the book that is happening.)

And things get both better and worse for Park and Eleanor from there. Park wears makeup, Eleanor gets a makeover from Park's mom and dislikes it, they go out on an actual date and do more than just kiss in the car...
Well, that's all I'm going to say.

Eleanor and Park just touched me so completely, and if I COULD meet Rainbow Rowell, I would hug her and thank her for bringing them both into my life. Especially Park. It's been a long time since I've just completely fallen in love with a Young Adult novel male protagonist without wanting to puke in my mouth every time he said something romantic. Because it didn't feel like it was pandering to what young girls think romance and real love is about. It was actually how young women (and even myself, at 29) feel about real love. And romance.
At least it was to me. It was real.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. It was just wonderful and hit all the right points for me. 
If you'd like to purchase a copy of this book, you can purchase a copy for Kindle here, or a hardcover copy here.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my local library. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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