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Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: Eleanor & Park By Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell centres on two teenagers in the 80s, one half Korean boy who lives a fairly cushy life, and a slightly overweight girl living with her highly dysfunctional family in a small and run down home with little money. These two do not seem like the type to get along, but a gradual relationship develops between the two as they sit together on the bus each morning. There isn’t a trace of insta-love in this novel and the relationship between Eleanor and Park develops very slowly but you savour each and every moment.

I think what’s great about this book is that it isn’t your typical high school romance. This isn’t a story about “opposites attract”, but rather the interesting development of a relationship between two very different characters that somehow complement each other. These characters are not perfect, they are flawed individually and as a couple. They argue lots and sometimes Eleanor/Park really annoyed me (REALLY annoyed me), but I liked this about Eleanor & Park because it made the characters seem more real and alive.

Eleanor & Park doesn’t come across as sappy in the slightest. In places where it could be, a character acknowledges the sappiness of the situation, which again, makes these characters seem real. They are definitely not characters living in a world of make believe! It is Eleanor’s difficult home life which keeps this story grounded as she comes from a difficult background. She has a large family and is often picked on at school but her attitude towards these things seems very human. She is brave sometimes, but not always; she is sometimes selfish, but recognises this, though acknowledges that guilt doesn’t make her feel any different. There is just something so raw and truthful about the everything that goes through these two teenagers mind.

What I found rather strange and hard to get my head around was the fact that this book was written in a dual narrative but in the third person. This was a fascinating way of getting right into Eleanor and Park’s head, but also giving the reader enough distance so that there was an air of mystery around what each character was thinking at every second.

It was especially fascinating reading the different POVs of these two characters as they are wildly different, and yet at one. You can see that there are vast differences in the way that these characters think and feel and it’s sort of like the reader is keeping secrets for both Eleanor and Park, which you cannot reveal to the other person. I was rather touched by this novel on a personal level even though I can’t really relate to any of the content, simply because the narrative is so full of real emotions which seem truthful and heartfelt.

I have to say that I don’t think I was quite as enamoured by this book as the rest of it’s readers. Sure, Eleanor & Park is a fantastic novel and it is awfully cute/heartbreaking but I wouldn’t peg it as a five star read as many before me have. I think the thing that bothered me the most about this book is the lack of plot. Although this was a very nice snippet from the teenage years of Eleanor and Park, I felt that perhaps this snippet was directionless and didn’t really have a plot that built up.

I would say that this book simply follows the relationship of Eleanor and Park from the very beginning, but everything is a bit up in the air at the end, which may appeal to some, but for me it just seemed like the story was missing another chapter. I’d say that this story is much more about the thoughts and feelings of these two characters and not on any sort of event that happens in either one of their lives.

All in all, Eleanor & Park is a great novel, though perhaps a little more style than substance. The writing is superb and highly addictive so you will no doubt be drawn in and unable to put this book down; however, don’t bother waiting for some sort of major event to ‘happen’ because it’s not going to. That’s probably the only downside to this book as it really is very well written and a pleasure to read.

Buy Eleanor & Park:
Amazon | Book Depository

If you like the sound of this, check out these books:
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple Book Review
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Book Review
Landline by Rainbow Rowell Book Review
The Apple Tart of Hope Book Review

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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  1. Chanpreet
    16th October 2013 / 1:16 AM

    I loved this book. I disagree with you on the book being more style over substance, although there is certainly a lot of style. Parts of this book left me choking back tears.

  2. Stacey Memories
    28th July 2015 / 6:14 PM

    It sounds like an interesting read, I don't often read books, but will keep an eye out for this one as my holiday nears… mainly to see if it makes me choke back tears like the previous commenter. ๐Ÿ™‚

    31st July 2015 / 9:22 PM

    This was a great read and I really want this book now! Xx

  4. Louise Smith
    6th August 2015 / 10:18 AM

    Ooh, this sounds like a great book. I haven’t read in ages so I may have to pick this up ๐Ÿ™‚

    Louise x

    With love from Lou

    • 7th August 2015 / 9:43 PM

      It’s a popular title so I’d definitely recommend it ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. bloggingastrid
    6th August 2015 / 11:23 AM

    This definitely sounds like a book I may want to read.

    I am not usually into romance novels, but this one seems good. I lik that the main characters are both misfits.

    • 7th August 2015 / 9:42 PM

      It’s funny that these characters are considered ‘misfits’, because when you’re reading the story you think they’re perfectly ordinary people. Just goes to show what stereotypes can do!

  6. Serena Reidy
    6th August 2015 / 3:43 PM

    Great review! I need to read this book, it sounds really intriguing! I’m currently reading Fangirl so I think Eleanor & Park will be the next book I read by Rainbow Rowell!

    • 7th August 2015 / 9:42 PM

      I thought Fangirl was soo much better than Eleanor&Park, though I know a lot of people disagree with me on that one! Let me know what you think if you get the chance to read it ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Beth
    27th February 2016 / 9:10 PM

    What a fab review. I really need to start reading books again, this one sounds great

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:23 AM

      This one would be a nice read to ease you back in ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Rhian Westbury
    27th February 2016 / 9:44 PM

    I read this book over the Christmas break and I absolutely loved it so glad you did too. I loved that it was written from both their perspectives x

    • Laura @ What's Hot?
      29th February 2016 / 10:24 AM

      Ooh happy to hear that you’ve read this and liked it too! Romance stories from both perspectives are always more interesting!

  9. 27th February 2016 / 10:40 PM

    I like stories like this. A different love story is always a refreshing read.

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:24 AM

      I agree! It was especially nice to see the old cultural references in a book for younger readers ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Mandi
    27th February 2016 / 10:44 PM

    I wish that I had more time to read, I guess this will go on my never ending list of books I would like to read when the youngest starts school in three years!

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:24 AM

      I’d definitely recommend adding Rainbow Rowell’s books to your list ๐Ÿ™‚ They’re all lovely!

  11. 28th February 2016 / 10:28 AM

    I rarely read books anymore, what a fab review.

  12. Natasha Mairs
    28th February 2016 / 10:30 AM

    I haven’t read anything by Rainbow Rowel before, but heard that this is quite a good read

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:25 AM

      She is a really great author and I’d thoroughly recommend reading some of her work ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Tanya Brannan
    28th February 2016 / 2:05 PM

    It sounds like a really interesting book – I haven’t read anything by this author before so I will look her up x

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:25 AM

      She has written some really beautiful stories so I’d definitely recommend checking her out!

  14. 28th February 2016 / 4:07 PM

    Great review, I haven’t read anything by this author before, will have to look for her x

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:25 AM

      Hope you get the chance to read her stories as they’re really quite lovely ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. 28th February 2016 / 7:23 PM

    I have friends who kept harping on about it but when I read it I was left wanting more. Like you said it seems to be more style than substance.

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:26 AM

      Glad I’m not the only one! There was so much hype about this book so it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but was still a very good read.

  16. 29th February 2016 / 3:04 AM

    I very rarely read, but this book sounds really good. ๐Ÿ™‚ I will look for it for some holiday litterature. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 29th February 2016 / 10:26 AM

      This would make a sweet holiday read ๐Ÿ™‚

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