Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion Books
The plot has the makings of a John Green hit. I wondered for a moment if it could be the next The Fault in Our Stars; a story dealing with real issues in a non-paranormal world. So, does it hold a light to John Green? No. The story has the potential to really push the domestic abuse to the limit but I kind of feel like Rowell just glosses over it. It’s always hovering in the background but it’s never tackled head-on. The love story motif isn’t enough to carry the plot. Eleanor’s and Park’s initial meeting is sweet but there needs to be another element or the domestic abuse needs to be dealt with because the plot is flat. I was satisfied with the ending but I felt like Rowell could have worked harder in the beginning and middle parts to make me empathise with her characters.
The narration is third-person but focuses in on Eleanor and Park. It’s extremely clinical to the point where I don’t warm to either character. Each voice should be distinctive but instead, there’s nothing to distinguish them. They read the exact same. For dual voices to work, both characters need to have different lexicons, different ways of seeing things and different thought processes. I don’t get that here and a lot of the time, Rowell uses words that undercut the language associated with each character. A perfect example is when Eleanor can’t help but look at Park with “gooey eyes”.
The characters are as flat as my Mam’s (for Americans = Mom’s and for Brits = Mum’s) pancakes. Mr. Stessman is an inconsistent character. Park’s Mom comes off a bit stereotypical and one-dimensional at times. I like Eleanor. She’s the only character where I feel like the reader might almost connect to.
Quality of Writing:
While I think the writing quality is average, there are some things I like such as the comic book back-drop and references (Mr. Fantasic/The Invisible Woman/The Hulk) throughout the story. It reinforces and reminds you of their common interest and always draws it back to how they started out. Having said that, there’s nothing spectacular about the writing. Rowell has a tendency to tell us everything. The control of information needs to be more gradual as the reader won’t read on if they feel like they know everything about the book in the first few chapters.
There’s enough detail for me to get a picture of where I am but it lacks that personal touch that the author usually bring to the world they create.
I’ve read some pretty great love stories – both paranormal and non-paranormal. Eleanor and Park ranks at the lower end of the scale. It contributes nothing new to the genre and to love stories in YA. John Green in The Fault in Our Stars shows us a terminally ill girl and how everyone can love and be loved. Will Grayson, Will Grayson shows us two very different Will’s and everything thereafter is somewhat serendipitous. Eleanor and Park, on the other hand, left me with a sense of triumph when I turned the last page because I wanted to give up at pretty much the end of each chapter.
NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…
- Shoddy narration
- A half-baked love story
- Bland characters
- Reveal-it-all release of information
Books You May Also Like:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – if you want to see how love stories should be done
Looking For Alaska by John Green – if you want a love story with a wildcard thrown into the mix
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green – if you want to see how dual narration should be done with two contrasting narrators
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – you might want to give this a read if you’re interested in the mother-daughter dynamic between Eleanor and her Mom (also just an all-round, great story)