Steph Sinclair's Reviews > Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
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Should I break out in song and dance to "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep?" One lonely star. I'm just as surprised as you are, considering I just KNEW going into Eleanor & Park that I would love it, love it, love it. What reason would I have to believe otherwise? Almost all of my friends loved this book and have sworn fealty to the Goddess of Feels and Might, Rainbow Rowell. And I get it because she is a pretty awesome person and I think she is totally lovely. So trust me when I say I REALLY wanted to love this book. In fact, I am blindsided that I didn't, saddened that I can't join the Eleanor & Park Kool Kidz Fan Club and disappointed at such a disjointed reading experience.

Random Reasons Why I Didn't Like This Book:

1. The Romance

My main issue stems from the romance between Eleanor and Park. I just... didn't get it. Though, that's not for lack of trying because I had many arguments with Adult Me and Teen Me in my brain. Teen Me remembers the infatuation of meeting someone exciting and experiencing all those special moments for the first time. However, with Eleanor and Park, it was entirely unrealistic and unbelievable.

Park went from "God! Just sit the fuck down, Eleanor!" to "God, she has incredibly soft hands."

Eleanor went from "That stupid Asian kid" to "He's so pretty. I love his hair! I want to eat his face!"

The next thing I know, Park is telling Eleanor that he's in love with her, how he can't imagine being without her, that she's IT for him. Then Eleanor is telling him she doesn't breathe when she's away from him. Adult Me was not on board because the romance moved entirely too swiftly for my feelings to catch up with the events that were taking place. No, I take that back. "Swiftly" would indicated that there was some sort of actual pacing involved, but that was absent. One day they disliked each other and the next they were holding hands and proclaiming their love.

I remember listening to that part while I was out on a morning run, and I had to stop and rewind because I legitimately thought I missed an entire chapter. But then I realized that I hadn't and I argued with myself.

Adult Me: *twitch*
Teen Me: Yeah, but remember when you thought you were in love with that guy and how you were going to marry him?
Adult Me: Yes...
Teen Me: So obviously they're not going to be together forever and ever and gallop into the sunset, but you can't discount those feelings.
Adult Me: *gumbles* I KNOW THAT. But I also never wanted to eat a guy's face...
Teen Me: Please don't tell me I grow up without a heart.
Adult Me: ...

2. The Historical Background

Eleanor & Park takes place in Omaha, 1986, where there's racial tension. Park is half white and half Korean. He spends most of his time trying not to be noticed by other kids at school and struggling with his own insecurities over his mixed heritage. Yet, oddly, throughout the entire novel, Park doesn't encounter any racism. Apart from a few brief monologuing sessions about his classmates thinking he was Chinese, Eleanor's off-hand "stupid Asian kid" remarks and Park's own dislike for, in his opinion, looking too feminine, there wasn't anything that felt accurate.

Park's character had so much more potential that was not utilized. I was hoping for something more from his development regarding how he viewed himself and his mother. Perhaps a certain level of acceptance or resolve would have been appropriate.

There were also two black girls who befriend Eleanor, but even they don't seem to face any racism in this predominately white neighborhood. It was like Rowell deliberately tip-toed around them and instead threw in a reference to the community being offended by a black boy getting a white girl pregnant. Strangely, the only one who seemed to get picked on was Eleanor. I do think it's awesome that this novel had diversity, something that is sorely missing in YA, but I wasn't buying what Rowell was selling.

At the same time, Rowell never let you forget that this book was set in the 80s since Eleanor & Park is overloaded with pop culture references on almost every other page. (I admit to chuckling to the 867-5309 reference.) Still, we also never forgot Park was Asian with Eleanor constantly referencing it in her narration to the point that I started feeling uncomfortable.

3. The Narration

I wasn't a huge fan of the back and forth narrative and found that it annoyed me more than anything. This is where I wonder if my rating is more an indication of how I felt about the audio vs. the actual story. I disliked both of the narrator's voices. The parts of Eleanor's dialogue that was "snarky" wasn't portrayed with the right kind of emotion. Park's narration was slightly better, but the narrator, Sunil Malhotra, bored me to tears with his monotone reading and unbelievable voice for Eleanor.

4. The Story

I'll be honest and admit that it's possible that I didn't "get" this book. It may have just gone way over my head. Why? Rowell tried to cram a lot of story and situations into one little book and it didn't work for me. Before going into Eleanor & Park I was told that the ending was heartbreaking, but I didn't feel that at all. Rowell relies on Eleanor's grim family life to spark sympathies from readers and I can see how this works and why it's marketed to John Green fans. However, the ending relies on your connection to their romance to feel the heartbreak. The problem with that was, by the end, I wanted to know what became of Eleanor's mom and siblings, but the focus was instead on her feelings for Park and letting him go. Eleanor spent a good amount of the story in this terrible environment, feeling these feelings and when I genuinely wanted to know her feelings about everything, all I get is a freaking post card and the book ends. Since the romance was doing absolutely nothing for me, I needed for the plot to come in and rescue this book. It did not.

I'm not saying this was a terrible book. Not by a long shot. It's clear that this story has touched a lot of people and I wouldn't go as far to not recommend it, but I also think this is a bit overhyped. I went in with really high expectations, thinking I was going to be blown into next week by the awesome. Instead, I'm walking away with feelings brewing a special pot of "meh."

Even still, I'm holding out hope for Fangirl...

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
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Reading Progress

March 1, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 1, 2013 – Shelved
March 1, 2013 – Shelved as: st-martins-press
March 1, 2013 – Shelved as: 2013-release
March 1, 2013 – Shelved as: contemporary
Started Reading
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: audio-books
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: 2013-reads
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: could-have-been-better
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: disappointment
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: fell-for-the-hype
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: interesting-little-creature
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: kill-me-now
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: male-pov
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: not-for-me
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: serve-me-up-insta-love
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: tough-issues
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: what-kind-of-ending-was-that
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: why-the-hype
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: alternating-povs
November 20, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 284 (284 new)

message 1: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz On Sale for $4.99 Amazon 4.6.13

Shambhawi P. Uhoh.

Jessica 1 star? :(

Addie I'm scared. I sense a heartbreaking rant coming.

Jack im in math class and my jaw dropped

Therealbadkitty What? No!! I was so hoping you would love this. Eagerly awaiting your review.

sha. {"go book yourself"} ...wat? Why the one star? O.o

Stephanie (ShyNotebooks) lol did not see that coming

Katie Uh oh. I'm curious to see your thoughts, though, since it seems like everyone loves this book (including me and Christina, who almost NEVER agree lol).

message 10: by Jess (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jess Curious to see your thoughts on this. It seems as if everyone and their grandmother loves this book, whereas I simply found it to be 'meh'. Great to see that someone disliked it more than I did :P

message 11: by Cath (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cath What! Wow, I'm looking forward to you review!

message 12: by Bipasha (new)

Bipasha i need that review, this going to be interesting, AND DIFFERENT. most people liked it, what went wrong?

Riley Hm! Definitely interested to see your thoughts. (But I already disagree with the "instalove" tag.)

Daniella I'm interested to see your review, I really didn't enjoy this book.

Molly Really?

Sophie I wasn't a fan either, so it's nice to see someone else who agrees :)

Mauve7 Aww. :(

Dahlia I love this review. I think I found more to enjoy in the book than you did, but I felt a lot of the same way you did; I think I was just bothered by it less, or differently. I did feel for them and their predicament, and ultimately that's why I rated it so highly, but I definitely lacked the element of actual connection, nor did I really feel their chemistry. It's nice not to be alone in this! I just bought FANGIRL, so, I'm hoping that one resonates with me more.

MLE  I am so happy to see I'm not the only one of my friends not wowed by this book. I agree I had no connection to the romance at all, and because of that the ending failed to move me.

I'm also holding out hope for Fangirl. I have it on my kindle, but I haven't started it yet. I want to love it, and that makes me scared.

Katie.g I agree with your review. I really thought it was going to be a fantastic book but there was quite a lot of it that didn't match up. I couldn't quite believe they loved each other. Sometimes I felt like Eleanor only loved him because he was her only escape from the real world. The ending irritated me and only made me feel uncomfortable as it made me remember how I felt when I broke up with a guy, not because of Rowell's fantastic writing prowess. I feel a bit put off reading Fangirl now. Is it worth giving it a try?

message 21: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair I've shocked you all! Yeah, I'm sad I didn't love it more. I guess I just didn't connect well with this one.

@Elena, I'm wondering if I would have liked it better if I had read it instead of listened to the audio. But then again, Kat (who I usually agree with) couldn't finish it...

@Dahlia, I can totally see why people love it. But I'm still really excited to read Fangirl!



I felt the same way.

message 24: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair @MLE, they had a few cute moments, but overall I didn't feel much for their relationship. I hear from people who enjoyed both E&P and Fangirl that they liked Fangirl more. So there's hope for us yet!

@Katie, I think you are right about that. Eleanor did use Park as an escape in way. He was her own personal slice of happiness in a very difficult time in her life. I think she served the same purpose for him in a way too since she loved the parts of him that he felt insecure about.

I do think Fangirl is worth checking out still. I purchased it a few weeks ago and I'm still excited to dive in.

message 25: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair @Alexa & MLE, KINDRED SPIRITS UNITE!

MLE  Steph wrote: "@MLE, they had a few cute moments, but overall I didn't feel much for their relationship. I hear from people who enjoyed both E&P and Fangirl that they liked Fangirl more. So there's hope for us ye..."

That makes me feel a bit better.

Amanda Elliott I was like you and thought I was going to love this book as everyone I knew who read it was freaking out about it. Read it, and was just pretty bored throughout. For me I didn't see any sort of romance, more of just a great friendship and like you said with the story I don't think it connected with me. This book just didn't give my any emotions at all, which is strange since it did seem to effect a lot of others. Currently 50 pages in to Fan Girl and I'm thinking I'm going to feel the same way about it that I did with Eleanor & Park. Maybe I'm just not a fan of Rainbow's writing.

Michelle {Book Hangovers} There is nothing I hate more than a romance that starts out of no where! Like the one you just wrote about! If it's a love story then you need to build it, pace it! I might think twice now before reading this one! Thanks for your review :) xo

Alexandra Christo Oh man, that sucks! I'm actually one of those that really loved this and thought it was raw and authentic.

... have you any wool? ;)

message 30: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair @Amanda, Yeah, I was kinda bored too. I did fall asleep a few times. I'm sad that you're not enjoying Fangirl much. I hope it improves for you!

@Michelle, A lot of people would disagree with it being insta-love. And even I am not sure it's full blown insta-love because Eleanor does realize that what they have won't last. However, I'm not sure what else to call it. They do fall for each other quickly without my buildup, but since this was their "first love" maybe this is accurate for a lot of people.

@Allie, I know, :( This just wasn't my kind of book, sadly. Hahaha!

message 31: by Mackenzi (new)

Mackenzi I'm relieved to finally find someone else who didn't like this book! Great review of all the things I've been trying to say, and I appreciate the honesty!

Hailee I think you'll enjoy Fangirl better. The romance develops really slowly and realistically, and the main character felt a lot more connectable. To me, at least.

Cathryn So sad you didn't like it. I didn't get the instalove vibe when I read it. Oh well. Hope your next book is enjoyable.

Tracey great review :)

Taryn All good arguments. I understand how disappointed you were and I think it's because your exceptions were way too high going in.

Alyssa Calloway I'm so terrified to read this because I'm afraid I'm not going to like it. I love Rainbow Rowell though and since I am from Omaha I am a bit obsessed with her. I definitely encourage you to read Fangirl because it is amazing.

Demi (Breaking Bookshelves) I had such mixed feelings about this book and I feel like you've described them all perfectly for me.

Demi (Breaking Bookshelves) the reasons I didn't love it*

message 39: by Leah (new)

Leah I love the Teen Me/Adult Me conversation. So. Much.

Ai Haibara Totally agree with your review Steph!
The romance imo didnt touch me in any way and I wished that the book showed more of Park's sufferings of being born half Asian or even his confused racial identity but there was none of that and the whole time I was reading, it just seemed like Rowell was portraying him as blatantly Asian in the most stereotypical way.

I thought the ending was bittersweet but I didn't feel anything towards it because like you, I wasn't attached to their feelings for each other so it didn't leave any impact for me.

message 41: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate Copeseeley All valid points. I didn't feel like the ending was heartbreaking at all, but instead hopeful. And the romance part was hurried, I agree. But the romance wasn't why I liked it. I think it would have played better if they were just friends, honestly.
I don't know why I liked it. hahaha But I did. I think the audiobook would be seriously annoying, though. ha

message 42: by Bipasha (new)

Bipasha good review, i'm doublting my intentions to read it, especially since rainbow rowell's fangirl was so nice! nonetheless, great rev steph! ;)

message 43: by A. (new) - added it

A. I actually liked #1, #3, and #4, but the racial issues you point out in #2 did also give me pause. I loved that the author was brave enough to tackle these racial issues, and I applaud her for that. These issues did, however, feel underdeveloped, particularly, those surrounding the black characters. Having grown up Asian in the south with very very Indian parents who I was constantly embarrassed of (for no good reason other than I was a teenager), I can tell you most days I didn't actually feel (or at least I don't remember feeling) much tension about being Asian other than a few scattered awkward moments here and there, just as the author portrays. I did however on a more regular basis hear about racial tension between the black students and white students and teachers (and just plain society in general), so for me, skimming over that was what felt inauthentic. However, I did live in the south and not in Nebraska, and high school for me was about a decade later than in the book, so *shrug*.

message 44: by Matthew (new)

Matthew This is a great review, Ms. Steph! :)

message 45: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Sinclair Amitha wrote: "I actually liked #1, #3, and #4, but the racial issues you point out in #2 did also give me pause. I loved that the author was brave enough to tackle these racial issues, and I applaud her for that..."

Yup, I thought it was a little strange that the two black characters faced no opposition. Granted, Eleanor wasn't around them all the time to know, it still seemed a little off to me.

@Matthew, thank you!

Maddie Now, I love this book, as you can see from my rating, but I too was a little thrown off by the whole "I hate you" one day vs. "I love you" the next day thing. And that thought crossed my mind, too, about Denice and Beebee (those were their names, right?), about how Park was supposedly the only one who experienced racism and yet he's still half white. But at the same time, I completely connected with this book somehow. Maybe it just hit really close to home for me, reminding me a lot of my first love.

And it's also refreshing to see somebody who disliked a really popular book, although it seems that people are responding better to your dislike of Eleanor & Park than they did to me saying that I hated the Fault in Our Stars...

Saru (Queen of Bookland) Now I'm even more hesitant to pick this book up. Everyone seemed to adore Rainbow Rowell so I read Fangirl...and it was really meh to me, while everyone else seemed to love it. That makes me worried about this book. And now so does your review. However, I think I might be able to deal with the romance because I can probably just write it off as stupid young love. I know that even in the school I go to, I encounter plenty of kids who fit how you described Eleanor and Park's romantic ideas.

April Knapp Yes, I liked the book, but I felt the same way about a lot of the things as you did-I had a hard time buying the romance and I really wanted to know what the heck happened to her mom and siblings!!! I fear the worse seeing her mother's track record. Anyway, this book left me feeling depressed.

Giselle Yes to your review! I felt things similar to you. The what-kind-of-romance is this?? How did they hate each other one day, to loving each other the next? Also the back and forth narrative style drove me up the wall too. I feel like everyone loved this bookend I had no idea why!

hpboy13 I completely agree with you! And like you, I had known I would love it going in... and then didn't. Alas, here's hoping for Fangirl.

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