As I get older I am getting more bitter. I didn't think that was possible but it is and I presume that by the time I'm dead they won't even need to cr...moreAs I get older I am getting more bitter. I didn't think that was possible but it is and I presume that by the time I'm dead they won't even need to cremate me because I'm just going to be a pile of coffee grounds sitting in my computer chair. Some people age well like fine wine, I'm just rotting before I hit the grave. That being said, I am however trying to try not get so much joy out of hating things. I'm not trying very hard. Okay fuck it, that isn't true, I'm not trying at all but sometimes I wish I was a sweeter person who got my kicks from joy rather than schadenfreude. When you're in your early 20s it's kind of trendy to pretend to be misanthropic and angst ridden but when you hit your 30s you just look like a sad sack loser who needs to start yoga or go on Prozac. In my children's karate class, their sansei teaches the new kids to learn a 3 step mantra on why doing warm up exercises is so important, "To get your blood PUMPING. To get your muscles LOOSE. To get your joints OILED." Well, that is what hatred does for my body, not exercise. Exercise just amplifies the bad homicidal feelings.
I wanted to smugly give this book a 1 or 2 star rating but lately I've really been enjoying the books i'm reading that they love to classify as "YA" (ie all the books that my mother banned me from reading when I was a teenager lest I read about periods and second bases that have nothing to do with softball.) I lost count of the amount of times my mum made dad march Judy Blume straight back to the school library and I'll be honest, I am waiting in desperate anticipation of my children's teen years so when I catch them reading taboo books I can be all Cool Mum and tell them how, back in my day, I wasn't allowed to read Goosebumps but kiddo, you can read whatever the hell you like. Which we all know will make them want to avoid books altogether because why do something that makes mum happy. So perhaps I should just beg them not to touch any of the books on my bookshelves because they're full of naughty, terrible things in the hopes they'll want to defy me. Which brings me back to being too similar to my own mum, even though I am merely being clever and my mother was simply mad keen on censorship and preserving my innocence.
I don't even know why I'd feel smug about smacking a 1 or 2 star rating on a book simply because it's tagged YA? Because secretly I feel like i'm better than that? Well, fuck it, I don't feel like that any longer. I have finally realised that writing good YA requires a certain amount of genius. To put just enough cussing and hints of sex but not so much that parents take to burning the books on the family barbecue (or was it just my parents that did that?). To depict romance without being sappy. To slip enough enough cool pop culture references in without sounding like the Groovy Uncle. Rowell did this all with Eleanor & Park and although it didn't make me cry, it did make my stomach hurt a bit. Probably 'cos instead of crying I repress my emotions by jamming them all down into my gut.
I read another review of Eleanor & Park where the reader felt like the romance wasn't believable and hey, I'm one of the most cynical people out there and it didn't bug me. Maybe it depends on your own personal history and whether you can relate. I happen to have had 'romances' that have been quite similar. My current (and forever love) was a bit of a dick when I met him; I think he secretly liked me and was just trying to be edgy by being sarcastic all the time but I just thought he was a bit of a jerk. I met him when I got a job at the shop he worked at. I worked on the counter where I sat with a comic book in front of my face because I was too socially inept to speak to anybody. Then he needed a flatmate because he broke up with his girlfriend (because he was secretly besotted with me, bless) so I moved in with him. Then one night as we sat smoking cigarettes and watching his stupidly small television, I looked across at him with his pencil tucked behind his hair and thought, oh that's cute. Then I noticed his nice little hands and his twinkly eyes and before I knew it, we're in the suburbs getting old and fat together.
One thing I didn't like about this book, cos there is always something, was the constant jumps of point of view. i'm not even bringing it up cos I wanna find fault because that's the way I usually roll. That shit was annoying. Eleanor. Park. Eleanor. Park. Every time I read a heading I was yanked up and out of the story like a fish on a hook. If I hadn't liked the story so much it would have been bad enough for me to quit reading.
But I liked everything else. I liked some of the things that other people hated. I didn't feel like the pop culture references were too heavy or awkward. Maybe they were but I was too interested in the story that I just didn't care? I kind of felt like Rowell set it in the 80s because it wouldn't have worked as well with a modern setting rather than because she wanted it to be all about the 80s, so there was enough woven in to kind of make the setting work.
I loved Park's parents and the way they all related to each other. I loved that there was enough of it so that they felt fully fleshed out and not just props but not too much that it detracted from E&P's own story. I loved the agony of Eleanor's family life. For me, it was necessary background. It explained her slight resistance and disbelief of Park's adoration. Financial hardship explained her odd clothes and enabled Park to ply her with tapes and comics. I felt like their family lives added so much meaning and depth to their characters and why they were the people that they were. I really loved Park's mum and dad. Really, really. I felt feelings.
I am quick to find things to hate in novels. I am terribly precious about who I spend my time with and when a book is bad, I can feel the minutes ticking down and my death approaching and then panic happens and the panic rouses up anger and then I throw the book across the room and dive onto goodreads to rant about its negatives. i hate spending a single second of my time on wasting my life. I didn't feel like that with this book. I just enjoyed reading it. I wasn't antsy for it to finish so I could start the next book on my list. I didn't skim sections. I liked all the elements.
I liked the slightly imbalanced relationship too. Park was so smitten with Eleanor whereas I felt like for Eleanor, Park happened to be the little bit of light in her dark world. Something sweet amongst all the salty. Not so imbalanced that it felt frustrating but just so much that it felt real. Uh, and finally, fuck I really just related to this story. I was Eleanor with an unhappy home life and a desperate need to escape. I was Eleanor at the dinner table at friends' houses watching them all be normal and supportive and communicative. I was Eleanor feeling fear when I walked into my bedroom to find my personal things gone through and a heavy silence in the house because I was such a disappointment. I was Eleanor ten years ago at the start of my current relationship; distant and difficult to deal with, my partner quietly supportive; there for me to run to and run from and eventually come back to.
And that's what we all kind of hoped yeah? (view spoiler)[That the three words on that postcard were what we wanted her to spit out the entire book. "I love you" and not "I'm gettin' married", or "I am lesbian". (hide spoiler)]
4 stars, 5 if I was a teenager.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)