Welcome back to the blog for our December Book of the Month review! This month, we read Eleanor & Park by the amazing Rainbow Rowell. This book has gotten rave reviews from all over the book world, internet, and real world, including a glowing review in the NY Times Sunday Book Review from John Green.
So, without further ado, here’s what each of us thought:
I had great aspirations to pace myself with this novel. I was going to savor it, and read it a little at a time though-out the month, so I could discuss my progress with JMart and AP. I was aiming to finish at the same time as them. AKA Play by the rules. But that all went out the window as soon as I found out how wonderfully awkward and enjoyable this book was. Sorry girls, I know you had finals to finish, but I didn’t – so I read it in two sittings, and it was lovely.
Set in the 1980s, Eleanor and Park is the story of a relationship between two high schoolers over one year. It is labeled as a young adult novel but the themes of family, responsibility and self-confidance are pertinent to all ages. I always love books that make me reconsider what I take for granted in my own life and how I live. It’s healthy to reconsider your own living situation and how you treat people from time to time. This book will definitely get you thinking.
In an innocent and humorous way, the novel reminded me of my firsts, first crush, first kiss-and well you know … The characters are human, they are imperfect and a little geeky, but don’t we all have that side? (If you disagree with me, remember that you are currently reading a book club blog. Case in point.) I can understand why John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, etc., gave it such great remarks. Some of the dialogue between Eleanor and Park reminded me so much of Hazel and Gus. “Okay. Okay.” It was so easy to relate to them, and to want them to succeed.
Eleanor and Park made me almost nostalgic, and I wasn’t even close to being a teenager in the 80s (I was barely born in the 80s haha). The book has a great sound track. As I read I could hear all the music they discuss, and after finishing I just wanted to go make a Park Playlist! You really get a sense of the little world they escape to together from their cultural references.
Eleanor and Park is a quick, enjoyable read that also has a deeper message of acceptance and caring. A wonderful example for anyone. I might just be buying it for a few people on my christmas list!
Oh, Eleanor & Park. I’m a sucker for a book with a fantastic cover, and the cover to this one drew me in long before I knew what the book itself was about. I mean, look at that ampersand connected to headphones! (I love ampersands.) Once I read John Green’s review about E&P though, I knew I had to read it.
I am ultimately of two minds about this one. The story is lovely and gave me all the feels and left me all swoon-y . . . but it also left me with a little bit of a toothache. But the kind of toothache that hurts so good because you enjoyed eating the candy that gave it to you. E&P scratched several of my literary itches (80’s pop culture nostalgia, realistic teens with less-than-perfect lives, and a dash of nerdiness). It made my inner teenage girl swoon for sure. And I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s writing—the dialogue and the story itself are clever and engaging, and there was never a moment where I actually wanted to put the book down. In fact, I read it in two sittings, and probably would have read it in just one if I hadn’t had to be a normal person and actually be social with the boyfriend’s family while we were visiting for Christmas. And Rowell made me care about her characters. I wanted to give Eleanor a hug and tell her it would all be okay; I wanted to cheer Park on when he decided to rebel against his dad.
And the ending. Oh, the ending! I thought it was perfect. Just enough closure to help you guess what happened next, but also just enough ambiguity to leave the mystery intact. I know some people hate ambiguous endings, but they are my favorite kind.
The absolute only complaint I had about E&P is that, at times, the romance got a little sickly sweet. It made me nostalgic for my own high school romances and the swoons I enjoyed in my own teen years, but there were a few points where I thought, “Really? Who says that outside of a cheesy romantic comedy?” But those moments were not too common, and everything else about the book was so lovely that I will be recommending it left and right to everyone I know. I am also very much looking forward to reading more of Rainbow Rowell’s books! I have Attachments on my bookshelf and Fangirl on my Nook, and I will definitely be reading both books in the very near future.
Final verdict: Read Eleanor & Park. Now. You won’t regret it!
By the end of it, you could hear me sobbing within a five mile radius. Needless to say, Eleanor & Park definitely tugged at the heart strings.
To spare you the redundancy, I won’t review the plot points or the characters of this book. I will, however, preview the reasons why I connected with this book personally, and why I think all readers who have ever loved, or are in the midst of or ending their first great love, will find comfort and closure in this read.
Your first great love never dies. It teaches you little pieces of who you are and forecasts a future of who you may love, what kind of love you will seek, or what person you are to become. With each new love, you carry a little piece of that first great love. However distant it may be from the person you are now, however “off” that romance was from what your life has become some odd years down the road– you never forget that first great love.
So when I read the story of Eleanor & Park, I remembered the great things and the horrible things about a first love. I remembered the excitement, much like Eleanor and Park meeting on the school bus. I remembered the first date, the first kiss, the first time I felt entirely insecure in the presence of someone I cared about. It was difficult to overcome, but not as difficult as moving on from my first love and my first heartbreak.
So when Eleanor and Park learned these lessons, I remembered the feelings, so realistic and visceral. I loved the characters of this book for who they were, but also for how real they were to me and my own “first love story.” So, at the end, I cried for the ending of the book (so masterfully created in a few short sentences) and for the ending of the fictional romance I had fallen in love with. But I also cried in remembering my own Eleanor-like feelings of love and loss, my own longing and lack of understanding, just like Park.
You will love these characters for their story and for their beautiful and troubled journey. But you will love them for wherever you are in your own romantic life. If your first romance is your past, present, or future- you will find that piece of your life experienced, forecasted, or relived in this book.
You will love for the feelings of your own great love and you will most certainly love for Eleanor & Park.
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And of course, an important announcement . . . January’s Book of the Month! Since we did some contemporary YA this month, we’re going to switch it up and go for some solid literary fiction next month. January’s group read is . . .
Let The Great World Spin
Let the Great World Spin is Colum McCann’s National Book Award-winning novel—a critically-acclaimed, intricate portrait of New York City in the 1970s. Join us in reading it next month!
And if you’ve read Eleanor & Park, or plan to . . . let us know what you thought in the comments.