Eleanor and Park follow (take a guess) Eleanor and Park. Two sixteen year olds meet on the bus to school. The former an abused, self-conscious looking to stand out because there’s no way she can fit in. The latter a boy who just wants to keep his head down because there’s no way the back-of-the-bus-kids will let him do otherwise. Eleanor comes in to Parks life and flips it magically on it’s head as she shows him how to be himself, and he shows her how to be loved.
The Good Bits
For once we have a realistic over weight character. It’s so refreshing to see someone in a book who doesn’t have a summer bod ready to go, who mirrors thousands of other people’s real experiences. She’s self-conscious about her frizzy red hair, her large body, the tears in her clothes hidden by scraps of fabric and while there’s certainly more going on with her than just herself, it’s definitely nice to see part of myself emulated in Eleanor.
It’s not very often we see Asians in novels, let alone Asians who aren’t named Lee from China who speak with a very stilted accent as they wiz through maths. He’s fiercely protective, and good, and kind. Park is what some girls – girls like Eleanor – need in their lives. He’s a brilliant role model for anyone reading the novel be they of his gender or not.
– Eleanor and the abuse
I’m not saying I liked Eleanor getting abused, and I’m not saying it’s okay and if you are being abused definitely talk to someone you feel comfortable talking to. What I did like, however, was the way that Rowell handled it all. Now, I haven’t read a whole lot of fiction with abuse in it, but the way that her stepfather abused her made me feel disgusted. That’s the way it’s supposed to make you feel of course, but it’s not very often that books actually make me feel emotions like disgust and also second hand embarrassment.
The Not-So-Good Bits
– The instagram fade effect
Maybe it’s just because I’m no longer one of the teens, but I felt a little like the story was happening on the other wide of the glass. Not a brick wall or anything else so dramatic, but a barrier all the same. I find I can pretty easily get into a book, and Eleanor and Park was really no different, I could get into it, it was just a little bit harder than I should have liked.
Thoughts From the Back Cover| Teenagerhood
Eleanor and Park is set in the late ’80s between ’86 and ’87. So Gender roles were still a thing. Rainbow Rowell has done a fantastic job of incorporating normal teen confusion into her story using them. Teenagers are very much in a state of flux. They’re moving on from childhood and looking towards the future of adulthood. That includes finding where they fit. For some it can be a smooth transition, skipping happily over some of the more messy parts of puberty and emerging fully formed from the chrysalis as an emotionally prepared adult. The rest of us have to take the long route over hill and dale without a map. Hell, I’m almost 21 and I’m still forming.
Eleanor and Park don’t exactly have the easiest time in their teenager years, even if we ignore the plot. Park hasn’t exactly beefed up by the end of the book, and it’s not like Eleanor has become the most beautiful goddess. What has changed is our perception of them. But here’s the thing that everyone already knows. Growing up is hard. It’s messy and it never looks like the picture on the box. I guess the thing that Eleanor and Park show us is that sometimes the picture on the box is misleading, and the cake still tastes great.
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