Eleanor & Park was the typical young adult novel which, for those who had a teenage crush/sweetheart, would definitely remind them of young love.
Summary, Minimal Spoilers Ahead
The book is, obviously, about Eleanor & Park. Eleanor, the new kid in town, who describes herself (and by Park) as chubby, a red-head, and has a funky fashion sense. A misfit. Park is half-Korean who keeps to himself, loves comic books, has a better-than-most taste in music, and seems to have the respect from the bullies at the back of the bus. I’m not sure why he’s considered as another misfit, but he is labeled as.
On Eleanor’s first trip via the same bus Park takes every morning to school, Park is forced to share his seat to Eleanor out of pity. But not really, there’s some curses, internal turmoil and scowling through the bus window. But that’s basically how their connection starts.
Warning, Major Spoilers Ahead
Although I didn’t understand how it suddenly transformed from “God! Just sit the fuck down, Eleanor!” to “God, she has incredibly soft hands.” I think we’re to assume this happens across a number of days of sitting together in the bus. And the scenes were just edited out?
I have to admit, their honeymoon phase was kilig despite reason mentioned above. These were all too relatable scenes which may have happened in some points of our love life. The tug and pull and eventually giving in to their apparent attraction to each other. It was cute, the comic books and music. The phone call to get to know each other and almost-pouring their hearts out to each other. Oh, and of course, the flying kick when Park defended Eleanor from the bus bullies.
As much as they wanted to be away from each other, they couldn’t help themselves but stick together. Like opposite poles of a magnet.
But it’s not just all lovey-dovey. It’s not a novel without difficulties or a bit of conflict. Eleanor also has some issues with her family. Her home life is horrible and the author was, without forcing, able to make me feel the anger, fear and discomfort she had being in that house.
I liked, for lack of a better word, reading about Eleanor’s struggles because it made me see a different side of her. It made us, the readers, understand why she struggles with her emotions. Why she seems to be shy but also, confident. She seems unapologetic but on the contrary, wants to be invisible.
I think, there’s so much frustration in her because, as much as she wants to walk away, she wanted to protect her siblings. As much as she hated the fact that they seem to be tolerating their abusive stepfather, they’re still her siblings. She wants to be this whole ‘nother girl but she needed to be there for her mum and the kids. She felt she didn’t have a choice.
Speaking of the step-father. What. The. Actual. Fluff. The bathroom doesn’t have a door so Eleanor has to hurriedly shower before he comes home. If not, her mom will have to guard the door. I mean, Eleanor is a grown woman. Of course, she needs the privacy when simply taking a bath. It is so sad that her mom was still entangled around this horrible man and couldn’t see (or maybe she could, but not yet brave enough to acknowledge?) how creepy he really is. How problematic their home life is.
There’s so much to discuss around this problem and I was disappointed how it wasn’t resolved in the end. We are just told that Eleanor’s siblings didn’t go to school anymore. They were gone. And we, along with Park’s mom, assume they’ve managed to escape from the abusive stepfather. But I think, the author could’ve shed more light to the struggle of being in an abusive home. Instead of merely giving us the freedom to assume they’re okay now. The author breezed over the domestic abuse issue. Just a couple of sentences, really. It could’ve really helped young adults who might read the book and be in the similar situation, and who, unfortunately, may not have uncles & aunts to whom they can run to. Instead, we’re forced to gloom over their not-breakup breakup with Park.
- Great to have misfits represented; not the usual character molds.
- Easy to relate to and has enjoyable parts. It’s intense from both sides, positive and negative; the first love and the domestic problems Eleanor went through.
- It really was a coming-of-age story, reminding us how we were when we had our first love.
- A lot of themes, body positivity, domestic abuse, poverty, bullying among others, that were touched upon. But, all of these were lost when it ended the way it did.
There is so much to be explored should Rainbow Rowell decide to continue Eleanor & Park’s story. And I suppose that’s part of the reason why I didn’t fall head over heels for this book. She explored way too much and in the end, decided to just resolve one: Eleanor & Park. Which, I guess, is the point title-considering.