Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion
Released: April 12th 2012
Pages: 325 (Paperback)

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK! I hate romance novels, I'm sick to the back teeth of them, yet adored this (Yeah I know; go figure.) I think there is just something about Rowell's writing that you can't help but fall in love with. I've read good review after countless good review, but I never realised it'd be as amazing as this.

Eleanor is one of the most amazing female characters I have ever come across. Yes, half the time she was a moody cow and she had moments of being truly unreasonable - but she was so realistic! So many protagonists in romance novels are just drop dead attractive: Eleanor isn't. She is fat, she has a mass of curly red hair, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. But she is unique - Rowell celebrates her individuality, celebrates the fact that she doesn't have the classical good looks but is still beautiful. She's such a believable character, and all her flaws just make her shine even brighter - just like a real human being. Thumbs up for characterisation. 

Can we just take a step back for a moment and appreciate the fact that Park is ASIAN?! Hallelujah everyone, it's a miracle - we finally have a ethnic minority who not only is the joint-protagonist, but is hot too! In YA novels, there just aren't enough characters, let alone main characters, who are anything other than Caucasian. Again, Rowell celebrates human beings of every shape, size and ethnicity - so I guess that's now a double thumbs up for characterisation.

The romance was...weird. In most novels you will get crazy chemistry between the couple, scenes that will make you hot under the collar. The reader doesn't get this here - to be honest, I don't really "get" their relationship at all, which strangely makes it more believable. It made me oddly nostalgic of the first teenage relationship I ever got into - a fat mixed heritage girl dates a skinny white kid who doesn't quite fit in (okay, kind of the other way round ethnicity-wise in Eleanor & Park but ssssh) No one but the two of us understood what we liked about the other. It wasn't steamy, it wasn't erotic; it was awkward and cute and just all over weird. This is the truth of teenage relationships, and I loved Rowell's brutal honesty. She didn't sugar-coat anything.

Rowell's writing was quirky - you could get a strong sense of her quirky personality through her use of wit and her overall characterisation. I'm not saying it was a work of art; it wasn't. Yet her use of language dug it's claws into me, rendering me helpless and hooked on their story. 

I liked the controversial topics Rowell attempted to deal with. A lot of tales of abuse can end up being very dramatic and not very realistic - we never really understand what the character is truly going through. In this, you are faced with brutal facts - you cower with Elwanor; you feel her constant anxiety, her constant dear that

Eleanor & Park definitely has to be in my top five favourite romances ever. It was cute with just the right dose of quirky, and despite the fact that the ending was incredibly cliched, I did end up in a sobbing mess on the floor. If you love romance, you'll love this; if you hate romance, try it anyway. You never know - maybe it'll take you by surprise? 
Rating: 5/5

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