Oh my god, the characters aren’t typical pretty, white, skinny kids. That’s what this book is about. Or, at least, that’s what I found this book to be about.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell started off promising. I heard so much about while I searched for books similar to my beloved John Green collection. It seemed this book, like Green’s, was going to be a less sappy, more realistic teenage love story. I was actually happy when I saw that Eleanor and Park were not typical characters. I was happy that for once, the bullied/unpopular girl was actually not prettier, skinnier, and nicer than all the bullies. And I was glad to see that the main male character was not a tall white boy. It seemed much more realistic. Until it went too far.
Rowell emphasized that Eleanor was not skinny and that Park was not white so often I started skipping over sentences. It’s not that I didn’t like it, or that I imagined the characters different, it was just mentioned over and over and over again until it got monotonous. I’m all for people being different and being themselves but Eleanor was so over-exaggeratedly different I stopped believing it.
The whole bullying thing also bothered me. While I understand that Eleanor is bullied, I can’t see that she is the ONLY person on the entire bus/school who is bullied. If the other girls are so mean who exactly were they bullying before Eleanor got there? You would think someone being tormented as much as Eleanor would notice somebody else being bullied as a potential friend/ally.
Thirdly, I was also disappointed by the family story. I really liked reading about the family dynamics of Park and Eleanor’s families. But there wasn’t enough. The family of a character can build that character’s identity. I think that, especially in Eleanor’s case, more about what was going on in the family might have helped people understand why she was the way she was.
My final qualm is the romance. Yes, this book did not do teenage romance in a typical way. However, it still did it with a grand amount of cheesiness. I was so ready for a book that was realistic and emotional. I got two teenagers constantly thinking about how wonderful the other person was and then getting in arguments when they were together and then never thinking about the argument or what caused it ever again. It doesn’t matter how much you like someone, you notice at least some of their flaws. Sorry hopeless romantics, but it’s the truth.
Despite all those rantings, I actually didn’t mind Eleanor and Park. I liked the writing, just not the characters so much. Perhaps that’s a personal issue. I am considering reading Attachments by Rowell. Hopefully some new characters and a new story line will let me enjoy her great writing a little more. Overall I give Eleanor and Park 2.5 stars out of 5.
Let me know what you think about Eleanor and Park, and my review, in the comments.