Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
I've held off reviewing this book. I'm not exactly sure why. I think it's because before I read it I heard on and on and on about how great it was, how fantastic it was and so on. So when I finished and didn't feel I could rave about it, I held off saying anything. As you can see by my four owl rating that I did like it! I did! But I didn't LOVE it like I've seen from a lot of people.
What I liked: I liked the description of Eleanor's home life. To put it simply her home life was bad. Really bad. Her mother's boyfriend was just horrible, and the situation Eleanor was put in with her mother and her brothers and sisters because of him hurt me to read about. There were times reading about her home and how it was for her was painful for me. As a teacher I kept thinking about my students and how some of them could be in that situation. One scene keeps coming back to me. In it Eleanor is talking to the school councilor. Of course Eleanor doesn't want anyone to know what it's like for her at home - how they having nothing. At the end of meeting with her Eleanor thinks something along the lines of "I almost asked her for a toothbrush". It hurt my heart to think of her not even having a toothbrush to use! And that pretty much summed up what it was like for her. That part of the book was very strong, and for me what really made it a strong book.
Now the romance with Park. It was so unbelievably sweet and simple and believable. I found this a strong part of the book as well. And I think why is because I saw it juxtaposed next to her home life and it both made me happy and sad for Eleanor. Happy because it was a place she could feel safe and cared about. But sad because there was also the stress of her mother's boyfriend hanging over it the whole time. She could never feel fully safe and secure, so neither could I. I loved how it started so small with just sitting with each other on the bus and Eleanor sneaking looks at his comic books. I loved how it slowly unfolded and how strong their emotions became. They really cared about each other. Now as an adult I did shake my head some because I kept thinking their just teens when they get so serious with each other.
What bothered me - the ending. I'm going to talk about it without trying to give much away! I really struggled with it. I understand why it ended how it did and what it was supposed to do for the story. But it just left me feeling unfulfilled. I felt like I had invested so much into caring for these to characters to have it end in such a way. I felt like I should know more. I know, I know - they aren't my characters and I don't "own" them in any way, and the author owes me nothing - it's her story! But I can't help but feel let down. And that's what kept me from LOVING the book.
In the end I love Eleanor beyond anything. I wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be ok. I wanted to know her in person. I wanted her happiness and success. She drove this story for me, and I'm glad I got to meet her.
Final thought - Enjoyed it a lot and glad I read it. Just frustrated by the ending.