This book wasn't what I expected. Judging by the cover and the dialogue on Goodreads, I thought Eleanor and Park was going to be another sweet romantic comedy. I know, I know. Couldn't have been more off-base if I tried. But that's what I thought going in.
Now, imagine my surprise, when I start reading only to find something completely different.
A story about two characters that transcend the fictional and actually come to life in these pages. A dual POV where I get to know them both. A love story about first love, true love, involving two high school kids who couldn't be more different--at first.
This book deftly mixes the bitter and the sweet to come up with something completely real and timeless. I loved it <3 <3 <3
Eleanor was my girl from page 1. I felt for her immediately, standing there on the bus all awkward in the wrong clothes, wrong hair, wrong everything. I wanted to hurt anyone who hurt her (especially those jerks on the bus and her a-hole stepdad, Richie). Later, we learn that: a) Her home life sucks. b) She can't afford new clothes--among other things. c) She is one tough cookie who's smart and vibrantly full of life despite everything trying to tear her down. Oh, and I liked her b/c of her take on Romeo and Juliet. It closely aligns with my own.
Park was imperfectly perfect. *Sigh* He's a rare breed in YA, a flawed hero (or at least a very human one) whose innate goodness and badassery shines through even before he kicks the crap out of one of his friends who's cruel to Eleanor--which he totally does in the book. I cheered in my head. I loved Park b/c: a) the comics, b) the mixed tapes, c) the batteries. Oh my Lord, the batteries!!! Made me weep like a baby. It was seriously one of the sweetest moments I have ever read in a book J.
Rainbow Rowell is the best kind of storyteller. Every misunderstanding between Park and Eleanor was so real. She didn't just make them fight to create tension. It happened b/c of their different views on life, which, of course, were formed by their wildly different family lives. Even though it wrecked me--and it did--I appreciated the drama. I was glad it was never drama just for drama's sake.
And the romance. Heartbreaking, achingly sweet, funny. I wanted Eleanor and Park to find their HEA. I wanted them to find a way to stay together. My goodness, I literally cried, when they finally held hands. Think that's an exaggeration?
"If he were to look up at her now, he'd know exactly how stupid she was. She could feel her face go soft and gummy. If Park were to look up at her now, he'd know everything.
He didn't look up. He wound the scarf around his fingers until her hand was hanging in the space between them.
Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm.
And Eleanor disintegrated."--page 71, Eleanor and Park
There's so much more, but I'm going to stop here. As a YA writer, this is the kind of book you aspire to--and that makes you fear you may never get there. Rowell's book was incredible, a rare and beautiful find. I strongly recommend to anyone who loves romance, great characters, great writing, The Smiths, X-Men comics etc. Perfect. Simply perfect.
Happy reading everyone!!
(P.S. Have tissues ready)