karen's Reviews > Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
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really liked it
bookshelves: why-yes-i-ya

years after everyone else, i have finally read this book. and now i'm all caught up on the zeitgeist! phew. and damn, now i understand why rainbow rowell is so beloved. i mean, i read Fangirl and thought it was excellent, but this one, while it is not as good as Fangirl, does a couple of things so freaking well that it gave me all the swoons and the swirls.

rainbow rowell has this ability to tap into the teenage experience that is a little spooky. and while john green gets all the credit for being the author that writes the contemporary YA novels sophisticated enough to convert stubborn adult readers into YA fans, i think this book is more faithful to the realities of teenlife than his. green's characters are winning and funny and smart and articulate, and they have appeal coming out their ears, but they're a little idealized - too knowing, too confident, too much like miniaturized adults. rowell remembers the rough edges, the uncertainty, and her characters are a puddle of messy contradictions and still-developing personalities. and this, to me, makes them even more appealing because they channel all sorts of messy nostalgia for my dumb teen self.

the best thing about this book is not even the love story because love-schmove. but goddamn, the way she writes about falling in love with music is astonishing. all the making of heartfelt mix tapes for other people, the way certain lyrics can stop your heart, the doodling of band names and songs - not the ones you love, but the ones you want to love - that drive to investigate the bands you encounter through chance and want to remember to check out as part of some teenage rite of passage - that was a perfect scene.

this book did for me what The Perks of Being a Wallflower apparently does for other people. it slices off a moment in time and pop culture that is so essential and precious and you can just feel the pulse of musical revelation. and i don't want to be one of these old fogies that says to the kids, "your music is overproduced and soulless. in MY day…" but it's true. there is no joy purer than a teenager discovering the smiths.

the other amazing, perfect thing, and it's such a small moment, but when - (view spoiler)

i mean, it's not a perfect novel. there's a lot crammed into here, and it can get to feeling a little claustrophobic with all the competing "problem" narratives and underdeveloped secondary characters. there are a lot of unexplored storylines and opportunities to develop situations that weren't and a narrower focus might have made this more powerful overall. but even though it can feel a little overstuffed, it doesn't detract from the novel. the most complimentary thing i can say about a book is that it is honest. not necessarily realistic or authentic, but honest.

and i guess we gotta talk about the romance parts. since that's kind of the whole point of the book, as little interest as i usually have in YA romance novels. for all my eye-rolling over teen romance, this book captures all the feels and the consuming nature of young love and its hollow devouring obsession. and it's handled in a smart way. after eleanor pooh-poohs romeo and juliet as …two rich kids who've always gotten every little thing they want and dismisses the play as shakespeare "making fun of love," the less-cynical park hesitantly pinpoints the appeal of romeo and juliet:

"…because people want to remember what it's like to be young? And in love?"

and that's probably why this book, and other YA romances, are popular with older readers. because while no one (hopefully) ever claims that romeo and juliet's (spoiler alert) five-day infatuation/suicide pact brings back memories of their own teenage love lives, this book sorta does.

perfect example: eleanor and park's "first contact" moment when he realizes that any sort of romantic dalliance before this was unsatisfying and meaningless playacting and that the missing element of excitement in the experimentation wasn't a lack in himself, but a lack of emotional attraction and now he "gets" it.

Or maybe, he thought now, he just didn't recognize all those other girls. The way a computer drive will spit out a disk if it doesn't recognize the formatting.

When he touched Eleanor's hand, he recognized her. He knew.


i mean, an adorably nerdy way to phrase it, but definitely relatable.

i think the writing of eleanor was much stronger than the writing of park. the whole "outsider" romance thing was a little uneven to me. i understand what sets her apart - she's "big" and constantly comparing herself to the adult beauty of her mother, she comes from a damaged home, she dresses like a hobo clown, she's socially awkward, etc, but as for park, he's what - half asian? and that's a problem? i mean, it's mentioned that his dad thinks he's a pussy and that people don't think asian guys are hot, but he's reasonably popular and athletic and girls like him and he seems cool as shit. so his half of the "outsider" dynamic seems forced. but it might just be me not relating to the perceived stigma against asian guys - one of my first crushes was on data from the goonies because - adorable:





and maybe in omaha in the 80's, people didn't think asian dudes were hot, but i don't think park would have much trouble getting a girl on racial grounds today, right?







(i might be the only one with a crush on b.d. wong, but whatever.)

and once you start adding the eyeliner?? yeah, i am all aboard the park train.

and for that matter, i don't think redheads with big boobs are frowned upon much, either.



it gets better, kids. it really does. but until it does, go listen to the smiths.

come to my blog!
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 16, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 17, 2015 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)

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Nicky (burialshroud) "(i might be the only one with a crush on b.d. wong, but whatever.)"

This made me laugh because I was like, "Okay...okay...B.D. Wong!?"


Alexandra love this review


Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~) Karen! I am so glad you loved this book. I heart it enough to have a whole brood of babies with it, but that's probably the rabid fangirl in me talking. Have you read Rowell's Attachments? Typically awesome.


karen no, i have only read her YA books, but i own both of her adult books, and i am excited to dive in!

and look at bd wong rock this sweater. you cannot argue with the wong!




Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~) Thank you so much for reminding me of my sweater whoreness. I can never resist a good looking guy in a sweater. u.u


message 6: by Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ (last edited Apr 19, 2015 02:45PM) (new) - added it

Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ karen, I'm so happy that there was a review of yours in my feed! Karly and I were just discussing how much we've missed you and your reviews! Can I add another to the pool of Asian crushes?

And Park is half-Asian? Both Keanu Reeves and Lou Diamond Philips are half Asian as well, neither of whom I'd ever kick out of bed.




karen these beds are getting crowded!!!


karen and - yes, thank you - it's great to be back!


Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ Well theoretically they wouldn't be there at the same time...just alternating nights.


karen that seems fair. i don't need a whole lot of gentlemen hogging the blankets...


Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ I am a bit of a bed hog myself so it would be a little overcrowded with three.


Felicia I fell in love with Beth in Attachments myself. I love all of her books. I'm a fan of Rainbow even when she's at her "boy flips his hair out of his eyes" cheesiest.


message 13: by Jason (new)

Jason Holy S-H-I-T; here's Data a few years ago. I never found him hot (Asians don't swing it for me, personally), and know him better as Short Round from the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which might be my favorite IJ movie (I catch a lot of flak for that, but it is what it is. I don't say it's the best; just my favorite). Anyway, I thought you'd like to see him with his pinchers of peril. (I thought that was "pitcher the pal" until a few years ago. It made sense to me. You pitch it, and it's a pal because it bites bad guys in the balls).

Data Grown Up photo Data Grown Up.jpg


karen hahahahaha oh god i hope he still dresses like that all the time, just going to the market and stuff.

and there's nothing wrong with temple of doom - it's wayyyy better than the last one that came out, jeebus.


message 15: by Debbie "DJ" (new)

Debbie "DJ" Well, I may be the last to read...been sitting on my shelf for way too long. Great review, now I must read!


Kristin Clearly you aren't the last Karen, I haven't read this one yet either. And now your review makes it a must!

How can you not love Data! And The Goonies of course.



karen okay, good - so there's still a couple more slowpokes out there!

and thank you so much for that GIF - awwwww!!!


♔Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Veronica Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ♔ I've met Rainbow Rowell 3 times and yet have not read this one. I need to get it together


message 19: by Jason (new)

Jason YES! I'd be doing slick shoes in the market all the time! And imagine all the booby traps you could do in the canned goods aisle!


message 20: by Kiff (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kiff This has been on my to read list for a while, but after your review and your reference to the Smiths, it will have to move way up to the top! Stretch Out and Wait - one of my favs!


karen oh, these is soo much smithing in this book! you will love it! and that is my very favorite smiths song, hard as it is to choose just one.


Marjorie Ingall GREAT review. Wish I had something clever to say, but nope. Great review. I adored this book.


karen that's clever enough!


Sasha Love your review! Also can we add Toshiro Mifune to the list of super hot Asians? He made my young soul feel stirrings.


karen hey sasha. whatchoo doin', girl??




Sasha -dies-

um.. nothing? you'resohotpleaseimpregnateme. PS I'm done with school for the year so now I can read adult books with my eyes again!


karen oooh - congratulations!! happy summer reading!! with your eyes!


message 29: by Dawn (new) - added it

Dawn My Awesomeness Karen - that was another FANTASTIC review ! I always feel a bit funny as old as I am reading young adult literature , but I love it ! I taught 8th graders for 4 years ! What a pleasurable experience walking around in a cloud full of raging hormones each day and trying to reach each student in a unique level where they all float on one plane or not !! Hahaha! I loved teaching those kids because I remember how EXTREMELY DIFFICULT it was for me during that time in my own little life . I actually drifted through all of Junior High and High School in a cloud of daydreams and only came alive at night or , yes, when music was played ! Had my fortune told every birthday with a good friend in New Orleans for a bit because her birthday was on September 2nd and mine September 3rd ! Yes, Labor Day weekend and she lived on the Gulf Shores of Mississippi not far out from the Big Easy ! We usually had a crawfish and kegger by her pool on Friday with cake and the next evening was the French Quarter . Her parents were so cool !
One year my fortune teller told me as a matter of fact that although I was a Virgo , I did not have most similar traits of a Virgo . I was of course a perfectionist , loyal, an intellectual, and all but that is where it stopped . I was very artistic and creative . This sometimes interfered with my quality to be as rational as most Virgos. Thus , he told me I was indecisive and I would be a late bloomer in life . I asked him to elaborate and he said I was simply immature ! Talk about wanting to get my money back !!!
But, here I am many years later living at home again after a failed 5 year marriage because I could not discover a liar and a thieve in time ! HA! I have had two career changes and who knew I would be happiest writing, taking photos and teaching literature and creative writing and working with the promotion of the arts in our city !
YES, I LOVE YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE ! I AM A DREAMER AND WILL ALWAYS BE YOUNG AT HEART ! I still think back to those years and wonder how I could have changed things . Books were my friends, teachers, supervisors, my everything!
I loved The Smiths ! I used to dance with a bunch of girls in a group to a band that played their cover songs. Ever read The Lover by Marguerite Duras? That movie was a beautiful adaptation of the book with the most gorgeous Asian man I have ever seen . A must see ! My imagination is CRAZY WILD !

I will read this book , Karen and any others you think I might enjoy ! I believe we have really similar taste or we were conjoined twins separated by Dr. Carson at birth !! HA!
~ Dawn


Teresa Such a fantastic review for this book! I have nothing but love for Asian men.


karen the fifth picture in that stream. a dreamy actor of many fine films and teevee shows.


message 32: by William (new) - added it

William Thank you for the great review!


Jessica H I loved this review. You're absolutely right about the Romeo & Juliet line.


karen Jessica wrote: "I loved this review. You're absolutely right about the Romeo & Juliet line."

yeah, i never loved anyone enough as a teenager to orchestrate a whole death scenario. a missed opportunity on my part for sure.

William wrote: "Thank you for the great review!"

thank YOU for the great compliment!


Petergiaquinta Glad to see we’re on the same page with this book, Karen...you’re absolutely right about the way this book is also about falling in love with music...I’m a tad older than Park and Eleanor, but I had that same experience she has with “How Soon Is Now”: ”I am the son and the heir Of nothing in particular...” it still gets me today and now I’m fukkin old and I have absolutely no right to still feel that way!


karen the smiths are particularly powerful, tho. for me it's "stretch out and wait" ...


Petergiaquinta And “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out”!


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