Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published January 1st 2012 by St. Martin's Press

Two misfits.
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.
Eleanor & 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.

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

16 comments:

  1. Great review. I liked Eleanor & Park, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I liked Fangirl.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Well that's good to hear AJ, everyone I know seems to have loved E&P so much more but I loved Fangirl!! Glad I'm not the only one :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. WOAH! Now I am even more nervous to try this book. The only Rowell book I have read so far is Fangirl and I hated it. But you loved Fangirl and hated this. So maybe I will be the opposite.

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    1. Maybe you will be the opposite Charnell! I'd be curious too see how you make out with this one all the sane if/when you do try it out!

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  3. Sorry this was such a letdown for you Micheline, especially with the audiobook narration. I'm sure you remember that I had issues with this too, so much so that I've been wary to try any of Rowell's other books. I did read one short story in a holiday anthology last year and that was OK, but I'm still feeling iffy toward her novels. I know that's rather harsh of me, and maybe one day I'll warm up to giving another of her books a go. I still, however, can't shake how much Eleanor calling Park "that Asian kid" bothered me, as well as how Park's mother was portrayed. And the romance definitely fell short for me, too; there seemed to be no transition to the two being utterly head-over-heels in love with each other. :/

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    1. I do remember that you had issues with this too and to tell you the truth, it made me feel a bit better :) If this had been my first Rowell book, I probably wouldn't read any more of her work either, so I'm glad that I read Fangirl first! The romance fell really flat, so much so that it makes me wonder what the big deal was with this one O.O And I didn't care for Eleanor constantly referring to Park as a ''stupid Asian kid'', EVEN when they were together. The portrayal of Park's mother was a letdown too, I would have wanted to know about her past, her heritage or SOMETHING. Gah >.<

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  4. I was not impress with this one as well. No rocks here. :)

    I can't place my finger on it, but it just never really worked for me. Everyone felt kinda flat and uninspiring.

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    1. YAY! :)
      That sounds more or less how I felt about this one too, it did feel flat and ininspired. I honestly don't understand all the hype :(

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  5. Yeah, I've definitely heard or seen mixed reviews of Rowell's work. This hasn't stopped me from adding both Fangirl and Eleanor & Park to my library. Something told me to keep my expectations low for Rowell's books; I'll keep them low! Happy reading! :)

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    1. That might be some very worthwhile advice Maggie^^ I wasn't expecting to LOVE Fangirl but I ended up doing just that. Maybe that's what did me in with this one, I was expecting to love it and I really didn't :( Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  6. *high-fives Micheline* Er, I mean, it's a shame you didn't like this one. (I didn't either haha) I was the opposite, I read this one before Fangirl so I was amazed at how the books felt like they were written by different authors. Completely agree with your review, especially the ending-what even. There are better contemporaries out there, don't give up just yet! ;)

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    1. HAHAHAHA Oh Alise, you made me feel a lot better XD It really DID feel like both books were written by totally different authors :O I kept thinking: what the hell is wrong with me, WHY aren't I liking this as much as Fangirl?! I'm glad I'm not the only one though :) Yeah, the ending was messed up for sure! Thanks Alise ♥♥♥ I won't give up, but I will take a break until my palette is cleansed >.< LOL! xxx

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  7. Yeah, it's too bad you weren't feeling this one. I do think you are far from alone on this opinion though... seems like this book has a lot of detractors to go along with all the hypers. I didn't like the transition into romance either - seemed way too abrupt. But once they were together, Rowell managed to win me over with the coupling I must admit. They just seemed so good for each other! And for whatever reason, I kind of like the way Rowell keeps things sort of open-ended in her books (though I can totally understand why lots of people wouldn't like that). Whelp, sorry again you didn't like this one and thanks for sharing your thoughts anyways!

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    1. It really is too bad, I was hoping to keep going with my successful contemporary streak - which is hardly a streak considering how rarely I read them LOL! I'm glad that the romance won you over in the end, I was hoping that would happen with me as well, but unfortunately it didn't. I don't mind open endings, but to me it's like Rowell always pull it off...open shouldn't feel...unfinished...but maybe that's just me. Thank YOU for sharing your thoughts here Aylee^^

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  8. Don't you just hate when you keep reading and then wonder in the end why? I loath books that aren't complete and am tired as hell with the frequency in which I find it.

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  9. Sorry this one let you down :(. I remember when I finished I felt very indifferent about it, but I still gave it a decent rating. Looking back i think the only reason I did that was because I was on vacation and I didn't allow myself to feel bad about anything or dislike anything. I actually haven't really thought about this book to much since then (I don't even remember if a wrote a review for it, lol =D) but after reading your review I'm remembering all the things I didn't like about it.

    The thing that I was most confused about in this book was Park's supposed bullying issue. Like you said, he was suppose to be dubbed this outcast and he was afraid to do anything out of the norm because he would get bullied. But I don't ever remember him ever being bullied I actually remember that "bully" stopping everyone else from bullying him that one time on the bus. That just really threw me off and really confused me.
    Great review Micheline =D

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