Wednesday, October 23, 2013
(short) Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Why I read it: Heard a lot of buzz about this puppy that was not even limited to the YA nerd realm I tend to orbit. Had some upcoming travels and was looking for a tolerable, non-gag-inducing YA book to get me through the trip. From what I had read about the book and its unconventional characters, this seemed like it might just fit the bill.
Initial thoughts: Whoa, the lead girl is not waifish, but rather full-bodied. Overweight, even. Way to go Rainbow Rowell: BREAKING DOWN CONVENTIONS, one pound at a time. I am all for it. I was drawn in right from the first pages when Eleanor is having such a rough time on the school bus. Blessedly, I did not have to take the bus to school in high school, but I am still a little traumatized from having had to take it in elementary school. It really is a snake pit. And that feeling of oh God where am I going to sit, did I wear the wrong thing, why is everyone looking at me, etc., is truly the worst. So, reading this, I felt like Rowell was pulling me right back to my own heinous times on the bus and could visualize the scene SO VIVIDLY as big, awkward, stupidly dressed Eleanor boards the bus on her first day at a new school and realizes there are no empty seats, and everyone on the bus watching her fumble wants to dig themselves a hole and crawl into it because the situation is so mortifying and awkward. Nothing unexpected or unusual happens in this scene; I mean really, how many YA books have we read where the main girl feels awkward and isolated? But the way it was done, through Park's eyes, with just the right amount of detail, was really spot on and gave me the impression I was almost certainly going to like this book.
Things I liked: I liked most things about the book, truly. This is character driven rather than plot driven, which is always a major plus in my book. Rowell does a great job at developing Eleanor and Park and showing how each of them grows over the course of the book. I especially liked the character of Eleanor. She felt really real to me, the way she compartmentalizes her heinous home life and so that she can function like an almost normal teenager when she's at school. I really liked the fact that she wasn't your typical skinny, pretty-but-not-pretty-but-actually-truly-divinely-beautiful Mary Sue type YA character.
Things I did not like: I honestly cannot think of anything specific I didn't like about the book. I will say that despite all the positive things I have to say about it, this book was not transformative for me, and it's not the type of book that really stuck with me all that long after. I've actually been putting off reviewing it because I was having a hard time imagining what I might say other than "yeah that was pretty good!" Which is fine - not every book has to be friggin Vampire Academy or The Arcana Chronicles, amirite?
In sum, if you're looking for a well-written (like truly much higher quality of writing than most YA books that take place in a high school) YA book about high school romance, you cannot go wrong here. It is a sweet book about on par with the quality of John Green's novels and I cannot really fathom anyone having anything the least bit nasty to say about it.