Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park was my second Rainbow Rowell read (after Fangirl) and probably THE most popular and hyped book the author has put out so far. So, I suppose that I don't have to tell you guys that my hopes were pretty high for this one. As much as contemporaries aren't particularly my genre, I really enjoyed Fangirl and I felt sure that Eleanor & Park would be a win for me. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love it...I didn't. Now before anyone starts throwing rocks in my direction, let me be clear: I didn't hate this book either. I just didn't especially enjoy it nor did I get all that many feels compared to how swept away I felt with my previous Rowell read. Soooo, if the mere thought of someone not liking this book fills you with murderous rage - or you know, makes you think you won't like me anyone after you read this - then you should probably turn away now.
Published January 1st 2012 by St. Martin's Press
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty here, I should share that I listened to Eleanor & Park on audio and I did not care for the narrators at.all. There was a guy doing Park's chapters and a woman doing Eleanor's but to be honest, neither one of them did the greatest job of capturing either of the character's tone. The guy doing Park wasn't too bad though he sounded bored throughout most of it. And don't get me started on the chick. She sounded flat and uninterested at best and at worst she failed to capture Eleanor's snark and sarcasm completely. I just feel like their voices caused me to be harsher with this book than I might've otherwise, so I wanted to put that out there before we move on to anything else.
At it's core, Eleanor & Park is a romance, one that I expected to make me swoon something fierce. Only it didn't. I didn't buy into Eleanor and Park becoming a couple - especially not as quickly as they did here. I wouldn't necessarily call it insta-love, but they went from hating each other to tingly feelings without much in between and to be honest, it bothered me. Granted, they're both in high school and those kinds of romances can happen pretty quick, but at the same time, it was like they couldn't even stand to look at each other at first. Park thought Eleanor was a weird, gross freak and Eleanor just though Park was ''that stupid Asian kid''. Then they barely talk while somewhat warming up to one another until it turns into mad love. It simply did not work for me and it's hard to become invested in a romance when you fail to see any real chemistry between the two main characters. A part of me feels like the story would have worked better if Eleanor and Park had just been friends...Sigh.
As individual characters, both Eleanor and Park should have worked for me. Both feel like outcasts and struggle to fit in at high school. Eleanor worries about her body, her looks, she's bullied and her family life sucks hard, to say the least. Park tries to coast under the bullies radar but his mixed heritage and unique tastes that set him apart from the mainstream. You'd think I'd have connected with both of them, but instead I felt 'meh'. As much as I pitied Eleanor for being bullied and her terrible home life, it seemed odd to me that she was the only one in that school who seemed to be dealing with discrimination. I mean, when I was in high school, pretty much no one was safe from teasing and name calling, regardless of sex, race or whatever. Conversely, Park is dubbed a ''misfit'', but he didn't seem to be suffering through any prejudice or bullying. Like, at all. It was like, out of an entire high school full of students, Eleanor is the only target, because she's supposed to be fat. Erm, ok...O.O
Needless to say, that when I got to the end of Eleanor & Park, I was already feeling underwhelmed. At that point though, I wanted to know what happened with the rest of Eleanor's family. What the hell happened after she left? Where did they all go? I know that the book focuses on the romance but her family issues were still at the forefront throughout the book and I needed some closure - the story still seems unfinished to me. And as much as I enjoyed Fangirl, I had a similar complaint about it feeling unfinished too. As for any feels? Well since I didn't buy into the romance from the start, I didn't especially feel heartbroken by how things go down, which is surprising since I'm quite sentimental and emotional. I did enjoy the references to 80's music and popular culture, but that's about the only plus I can think of at the moment. Which is sad. I honestly wonder if maybe reading the book instead of listening to it might have changed my impression here, but my issues do seem to go beyond the flat narration of the audiobook, which was unfortunate enough. I had hoped that Rainbow Rowell would deliver for me once again but sadly, it wasn't the case. And just when I thought that I was getting the hang of contemporaries. Sigh.
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars