Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.
Okay so the story starts out alright, the pace is pretty good and while I was reading comfortably, I wasn’t driven to read until the end. I only went through a few chapters before I put the book away for an entire week- and I was okay with that. Just like the synopsis says, Eleanor and Park happens slowly and steadily. I knew I could leave the book and that nothing would happen.
This concept might sound weird, you could say “But how can you say that? Leaving the book wouldn’t change the story! Of course nothing would happen, what are you talking about?”. What I’m talking about is how you put down a book and all you can think about it that book. You wonder what would happen next, you think of all kinds of new scenarios, new questions, fresh character analysis, so many things that you can’t concentrate on anything else during the day. You feel like the entire world in that book is put on pause- if you’ve left in the middle of a battle scene, then that battle scene will be suspended in time and the characters will question each other “hey where did the reader go?”
Putting Eleanor and Park (the book) down is like giving Eleanor and Park (the characters) a break. They’re not in a hurry for the story to continue and in fact, it seems like they prefer it if you read slowly.
Most of the characters were really interesting. I liked the whole bus dynamic going on with Park, Steve and Tina, how the two of them seemed to support Park in their own little ways, especially towards the end of the book. I really like how they weren’t stable characters; people change the way they handle their relationships a lot during their teenage years and I felt that was very well done.
I couldn’t even imagine what Eleanor looked like. First off, she’s described to be huge, wearing mens shirts and lots of red hair and freckles. I have no idea how to put all that together? There are moments when Eleanor describes herself and then Park describes Eleanor and I know they’re both biased descriptions because Eleanor will put herself down and Park is going to put her on a pedestal. So yeah, I had a little problem imagining Eleanor.
I imagine Park as usual- an Asian guy who looks like all the other Korean guys who sing and stuff, thin and feminine looking, and I laughed when Park literally stood up in the book and knocked all that down. I love how the author called out on how we imagine Korean guys- all porcelain and girly.
I had mixed feelings about the dynamics in their families though. I liked how Park’s family warmed up to Eleanor (what was the point of Josh though. I’ll tell you. The only point of Josh was to spill the beans and lead to the end for the two main characters). Eleanor’s family, however, was a train wreck. With Richie being just downright awful, I thought Eleanor’s mom would have got some guts? She’s literally like “Oh I married Richie so I gotta stick to him for the rest my life, I know he makes things horrible for my kids, but my kids can move out of the house when they get legal, and I’ll be stuck with this guy, right? Gotta keep him happy!”
That is so wrong on so many levels.
Overall this book was fine. I felt like most of the hype was really due to that one quote art people like spamming everywhere “Art wasn’t supposed to look nice, it was supposed to make you feel something” which I suppose is a great quote except it made me feel very inadequate considering I look at all kinds of art and don’t really feel anything…
I’d give Eleanor and Park 3.5/5. I would probably not read it again, except maybe to get a few more quotes out of it/criticize more bits of it. I would, however, read more of Rainbow Rowell’s works.