Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Reading Time: 08/09/16 – 12/09/16
Eleanor & Park was a delightful novel that fitted in nicely to my reading life in-between a fantasy heavy stage I have been having. I needed something easy and fun and that is what this book gave me. This is the second Rainbow Rowell book I have read, and I really love her writing style, I will now be going on a book buying binge and purchasing the rest of her novels.
This book follows Eleanor, the new girl that stands out for her rather daring style and bright red hair, but really she is just learning to live with what she has (which isn’t much). She lives with her rather big family, including her awful step-dad who she is terrified of. And then we have Park, a half-Korean kid who sits in the middle ground of popularity and has a deep love of Punk. This book is about the unlikely romance that forms between the two and how they deal with becoming involved in each other’s lives.
Switching between these two character’s narratives for once didn’t annoy me, in-fact I felt it was a very interesting way to write this story. We got insights into what each where thinking about each other and themselves. I don’t know if anyone else thought much on this, but I wonder what Eleanor actually looked like. She described herself as fat, but when Park sees her I don’t think he ever refers to her as fat. Is this Rainbow Rowell’s take on how women see themselves? Is Eleanor in-fact just a normal curvy girly, as she is still called ‘Big Red’? I have been looking at fan art for this and a lot of people have drawn Eleanor differently, I like to think of her as just having some womanly hips, but not being obese at all.
The contrast in Eleanor and Park’s home lives was very well written. Despite living in the same ‘rough’ neighbourhood, the two have completely different backgrounds. Eleanor had my sympathy and her step-dad had my anger, he made me want to step right into the book and give him a strong word or two. Park’s house was clearly the comfort point in this novel, it was safe and homely, he had loving parents who support him and want what is best for him. He held the ideals that Eleanor was searching for, and what the reader wanted her to have throughout the novel.
*This paragraph contains a tiny spoiler* I really liked the use of gender roles and the questioning of sexuality in this novel too. Park mentions a few times about thinking he could have been gay when he was younger and it is raised that perhaps he likes Eleanor because she dresses like a boy. Eleanor and Park have a conversation about the gender roles they uphold when Park says ‘I’m not the Princess Leia’ and Eleanor tells him not to get so hung up on gender roles. I loved this scene, not only for the Star Wars quoting, but also for its addressing of how it doesn’t matter about having gender roles in a relationship. I think this is a really important point and I’m glad it was raised in this book. Okay spoilers over now!
Despite the sorrow from Eleanor’s side of this story, I found it an uplifting read. It was definitely a novel that could pull me out of my life and put my into someone else’s and this is something that I have not found in a book for a while now. So if you are looking for a short read that will offer you a homely and cosy bit of enjoyment then check this book out! Praise to Rainbow Rowell for creating lovely characters and knowing just how to set up the perfect story.