What I Read Wednesdays: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell11:59 PM
Park Sheridan and Eleanor Douglas are two misfit teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. Park is half-American, half-Korean while Eleanor is Danish and Scottish. Dealing with issues of race and abuse, the book tells the story of their love after the two bond over comic books and music on the school bus, the obstacles they face being in love, and how they ultimately change because of it.
This is cutting it kind of close, but it's still a few minutes until the end of Wednesday. ;) I've been reading some mild to moderate praise for Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, but it was love story Eleanor & Park that caught my eye. Perhaps because slugging through a months-long breakup is taking its toll and by nature I am inclined to immerse myself in bothersome thoughts and get sadder and sadder until one day suddenly it feels as if I've finally come up for air and all feels good, nearly all-right. ANYWAY. Feelings. I have a lot of them. Read on for spoiler-free (and thus very vague) comments.
The honesty in this story is almost palpable: from the hesitation to get involved, to the shy little things almost-couples do (like mix tapes and the first time you hold hands and that habit of touching his chest), to the ramped-up intensity, down to the final non-goodbye. Maybe it's because training in medicine means you never really leave an academic setting until you're 30 and everything after college feels just like high school, maybe it's because the world of interns and residents is so busy and so small that everyone notices every little thing and people live on caffeine and gossip, maybe it's because day after day of trudging through improvement and cure but also death and disability makes it that much better when you have someone to come home to -- but this resonates with me to an almost uncomfortable degree. These kids crash land into each other's lives and they (especially Eleanor) know it's probably not going to last, but they try anyway. And it's not perfect, it's not without jealousy and uncertainty and desperation -- but it's theirs.
In the blurb Park and Eleanor are described as "misfits;" even John Green sees it as a "two against the world" situation. The backdrop of bullying and domestic abuse along with the undercurrent of racism lend tension to the plot, but I don't see the two as outsiders. It's easy to identify with them straight away, and the story stands on its own without that element of quirk -- a heartfelt boy-meets-girl that touches all the right spots.
There is a fair amount of mush but it's the kind that actually happens in real life. Even a certain passage where someone says
I live for you
which would normally make me wail and gag. It's not something a stable adult would say, but it reminds you that hey, these characters are 16, and 16-year olds say shit like that when they're infatuated with love.
It's also amusing how relevant the 80s pop culture references still are today. From The Smiths (recently re-popularized by the 2009 film (500) Days of Summer) to Watchmen (!!!) (once again plunged into the spotlight when the Before Watchmen prequels were collected into hardcovers last year) and of course The Beatles, who are timeless.
The mark of a hit young adult novel is fanart, and this has an abundance. You may even have seen this quote floating around social media -- I actually saw it on Facebook before reading the novel.
She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
It's those throwaway lines that gut you.
A movie is also in the works, which I am sort of dreading because with stories like these the films never seem to convey the inner monologue of the characters, but I could possibly see it in the style of the aforementioned (500) Days which, as you may have guessed by now, I quite enjoyed.
Eleanor & Park (PhP 425) is a cathartically cheesy yet authentic read of prolonged summer romances, tall shy dark-haired boys whose eyes disappear when they smile, awkward secretive big-haired girls who can't believe anyone could fall for them, of new love getting the best of us...reminding me of all the things I used to have, the bitter just barely succumbing to the sweet.
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Read my full disclaimer here.