Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park

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.

Comment: I wasn't that eager to read this book (it's YA, the genre I tend to stay away from) but I found it with an interesting discount at a book fair in the beginning of the month. Since I managed to read all the books I had planned for June, I started this one (it's not that big in my edition).

This story presents us Park and Eleanor, two teenagers who meet in the bus on the way to school because Eleanor is the new girl and she has no place to sit in the bus except next to Park. 
Eleanor is easily noticeable because she doesn't dress like most girls and her red hair makes her easily spotted too.
However, as the bus travels go on, Park starts to realize Eleanor checks out his comic stories and he feels he should take longer so she could read too before he turns the pages. While others talk or tease or mock os act silly, the two seat partners start to find common tastes to the point Park feels he needs to tell Eleanor what he feels and she does the same. But they both have complicated lives at home, for different reasons. Its their friendship and love that will cement their bond even more...

Generally speaking, this YA story is quite interesting, much more than I anticipated. The focus is a lot more on the two protagonists' lives and relationships and not how they are in love and become moody about those feelings. I'm glad because when I think about teenage drama, very often is too annoying (I've been one so I don't want to relive it) but if the main themes are centered on the daily routines, the expectations, often the need to comply with an idea others have of us, that seems to be more interesting to read about and thankfully, this book is more about that.

There is romance, of course, and it's portrayed in a very cute way. I'm glad it's not all about hormones and being in love and thinking that. I liked these characters had deeper thoughts rather than just attraction and dating.
For most teenagers everywhere, the angst, the fear, the social rules are more often about how to behave, how to be accepted and not about romances. There is too much drama in teenager's relationships but that can also be boring and immature and I prefer to read stories about important themes, as it happened here: Park feels he isn't as well loved by his father and Eleanor has a mother who can't respect herself much less others and has a toxic relationship that affects her children's lives.

The story is told alternatively for the most part, between Eleanor and Park. this style allows the reader to have a pretty good grasp on the timeline and the emotions the characters have. 
Eleanor feels a little more realistic, she is bullied, she doesn't have a safe heaven at home and she personifies a lot of the issues most unpopular kids suffer through during the teenager years. I liked her but at the same time she was characterized a little too cynically for me to feel more empathy towards her. Even while understanding her life situation.
Park did feel cuter, he seemed to be more solid but he is a good example of someone who also vacillates at times in doing the right thing. If only we could be as confident as we want, no matter the age we have... but I'm glad Park was there for Eleanor when it counted the most.

By what we "see" of their lives, especially Eleanor's, we know things might not go towards a very good resolution. I can't tell if the sometimes perceptible vagueness and superficial action scenes are on purpose to make things more difficult to define or to make it harder to have a better idea on everything, but for me there is a little lack of aim and notion of what happens at the end. I don't think leaving things up in the air was a good choice but yes, I get it.

This book feels it hit it perfectly when it comes to portray unpopular people, who must dread going to school to face everything and everyone one more day and how tiring that can be if you don't feel appreciated. I liked this aspect of things.
The romance I could have done without and if the book was only centered on their family issues and personal problems along with a strong friendship between them, I feel it could be better for me and perhaps more captivating in general.
Grade: 7/10

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