Rarely feel moved to write a review, but feel I need to explain the 1 star rating. I usually stop reading a book if I don't like it, but it wasn't untRarely feel moved to write a review, but feel I need to explain the 1 star rating. I usually stop reading a book if I don't like it, but it wasn't until I finished this book that I realised how much I didn't like it. Have you ever felt "cheated" by a book? This is how I feel about Eleanor and Park.
I totally get why other people *loved* it. I found the story engrossing, the depiction of young love beautiful, and was moved to sadness, anger and laughter - which just goes to show how well-written it is. And, hey, I grew up in the 80s and the nostalgia-fest was great.
My main criticism is that the book does not adequately tackle the many issues it raised around race, gender, class, poverty, abuse - these issues are central to the plot and yet the book mostly fails to explore them in any meaningful, insightful way (compare with Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian" which, I seem to recall, does a much better job of this).
I can already hear angry fans saying "but that's not what the book was about". Yeah, well, maybe it should have been - the world doesn't really need any more rose-tinted views of young love. Ironically, the author seems to acknowledge this through Eleanor's critique of Romeo and Juliet in the book. And before you point it out to me, I also get that the author is "knowing" in her writing about this stuff. But my point is that there was a whole bunch of other stuff in the book that I wish the author had treated with the same creativity, care and attention to detail. Because those issues deserve to be more than shortcuts to character-building and drama in a book.
Another thing I found troubling about the book was that, ultimately, Eleanor was a pathetic character who needed "saving" by Park. She credits him with saving her life. I'd have rather seen her save her own life, stand up for *herself* against the bullying of her schoolmates and her step-dad, but in the end it becomes a story of a guy "saving" a girl, and I think that's problematic because I think stories of other people coming along and "saving" you are problematic.(And yes, I know there are a couple of points in the story where Eleanor doesn't want Park to stand up for her, but he does anyway).
Spoiler alert: Eleanor doesn't actually *do* anything about the many problems she faces, she doesn't seem to develop into a stronger person through the experiences in the book, she doesn't confront her bullies or help out her siblings or mother. She literally runs away. Did I miss something? Did I miss the bit where her relationship with Park somehow makes her better able to cope with her problems not just provide a relief from them?
Anyway, this is a brain dump on a Saturday morning and I suspect there are other, better critiques of this book out there where someone has bothered to think about this book a bit more deeply than the majority who seem to have fallen uncritically for its undeniable charm. Here's one such review: http://cleareyesfullshelves.com/blog/...
And finally, by the time I got to the end of the book, I couldn't care less what those three words were. Another cheap trick from the author.
UPDATE: It just struck me that another book I was reading at around the same time, "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Wallace Stegner, covers many of the same issues - young love, poverty, parental child abuse - but in a far more authentic, complex way. It's over 500 pages long, but I raced through it and it made me want to read more by the same author ....more