Eleanor and Park
– Rainbow Rowell
I wanted to read this book for months. Last week I finally bought a paperback copy for myself. It took me just two days to finish reading it because it was difficult to keep it down. The book is a refreshing take on a teen love story. The narration of the story is straight forward, it doesn’t digress and it’s both from Eleanor as well as Park’s point of view. Both the characters do not fit the exact mold of stereotypes shown in high school stories maybe that’s why they are so relatable because in reality very few actually fit the clichés we read about teenagers.
Eleanor and Park are two people who are very different from each other, not only their personalities differ but family backgrounds too. You can empathize with both of them but personally I felt really bad for Eleanor. Both of them have their own set of problems and an entirely distinct approach and perspective to them. All teenagers are a mess, some more so than the others; the book captures that turmoil pretty perfectly. Eleanor stands apart from the rest of the girls in school and is picked on for it but they don’t know how difficult her life is and being insensitive they just add to her troubles.
There are always such people around you especially in high school. It’s such little nuances that shine through in the book that keep you curious; you can’t wait to find out what going to happen next; it wasn’t what I had guessed. The inner conflicts the characters go through is portrayed so well that you feel all those emotions along with the characters and that is one of the reasons I liked this book so much.
There is sub-plot of identity crises in the story which as a Cultural Studies student was very fascinating to me but that might just be me overanalyzing the situation. Park struggles with his feelings for Eleanor because he didn’t think much of her in the beginning and it is a task for him to come out of that mind set. Like any teenager Park is concerned about the thoughts of his peers which prompts him to keep a distance from Eleanor which doesn’t work out. Eleanor on the other hand is guarded around people and I think she is incredibly brave in dealing with crises but she has a lot of baggage. Eleanor’s behavior stems from insecurity and anxiety that she has to live with every day.
There is a whole different dynamic to the story solely because of good characterization. There are many popular culture references which emphasize the fact that the characters are teenagers and adds an element of reality. The serious conflicts in the story aren’t explicitly described in the novel but subtle hints are woven throughout the plot from the very beginning.
The plot of the book wasn’t overly complicated or dramatic in anyway but it leaves an impression on the reader, that’s for sure. The title of the book is the names of the two protagonists and the plot remains dedicated to them instead of going in other directions which has happened in the books I have read before. Overall I really enjoyed reading Eleanor and Park. It is not exactly a light read typical love story, there is a darker theme constantly underlining the plot and the tone of the novel. I am sure I will read this book again and enjoy it just as much as I did reading it the first time.