Monday, 20 May 2013
Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Released: February 28th, 2013
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park is funny, sad, shocking and true - an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.
Eleanor and Park is one of those books I'm still thinking about a week after finishing it. It left me a little but heartbroken, strangely happy and very much in love with Eleanor and Park and their unlikely pairing.
Set in 1986, Eleanor and Park features many references to my favourite 80's music, including Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths. There isn't a mobile phone or laptop in sight; instead our characters communicate via landlines, mix tapes and actual real-life conversation. I loved that this book was set in the 80's - I felt that I got to know Eleanor and Park better, and I also got to live in my favourite musical era for a while. Everything was different back then, and this book really shows that.
Now, I need to talk about Eleanor and Park. At first I didn't particularly like either of them: I thought Park was mean and I thought Eleanor was quiet and irritating, but I quickly changed my mind on both counts. These two belong together, and that's evident in the way they help each other and make each other's lives better. It all started with X-Men comics but it ended with a lot more than that.
Eleanor's home life is a big part of her story, allowing author Rainbow Rowell to cover some very serious issues while somehow managing not to make it too bleak or overly dark. The contract between Eleanor's and Park's parents is stark, and definitely made me extra grateful for my family. I felt sorry for Eleanor but at the same time I felt empowered by her and the way she wanted to change and make a difference.
Eleanor and Park is one of those books you just have to read. You'll be transported into another decade where life was slightly simpler, technology was a luxury and the comics were just being published for the very first time. In this decade you'll meet a boy and a girl who mean everything to each other, and who understand the importance of friendship and love. You'll read it and be part of their lives for a few hours, and you'll still be thinking about them long after closing the book. Do yourself a favour and meet Eleanor and Park, and then never forget them.