Monday, March 3, 2014

Recommendation: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you."
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
"I don't think I even breathe when we're not together," she whispered. "Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it's been like sixty hours since I've taken a breath. That's probably why I'm so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we're apart is think about you, and all I do when we're together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I'm so out of control, I can't help myself. I'm not even mine anymore, I'm yours, and what if you decide that you don't want me? How could you want me like I want you?"
He was quiet. He wanted everything she'd just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with 'I want you' in his ears.”

I realise this quote is EXCEPTIONALLY long, but it summarises the plot of Eleanor and Park beautifully.

On the outside, this book seems to have everything –  a girl who is different, plagued with self doubt and self loathing, and has a turbulent family life, falls for a boy who seems to have it all – a nice home, happy family, but who experiences his own kind of social anxieties.

It is a love story in the most unconventional sense – two people, from two completely different walks of life somehow find themselves together. Your heart will break for Eleanor as she experiences psychological cruelty and abuse in the worst possible way from her step father and her peers. You also feel for Park, who becomes enchanted with this social outcast but is wrestling with his desire to stay anonymous and not catch the attention of school bullies.

But don’t get me wrong – this is not a happily-ever-after kind of story. Rowell admits ‘That’s all I had when I started — the end… They’d be like Romeo and Juliet, if Romeo and Juliet had really been in love. And if they’d seen their end coming’. (See this YouTube clip for her entire speech).

Here’s the clincher – Park’s job was never to sweep Eleanor off her feet. In a sense, Park saved her – he showed her what true love really is, his family showed her what family life could be like. Park also gave Eleanor the courage to speak up and to seek help and to try and get her mother and siblings out of their unsafe home environment.

That’s what I love about this book – it discusses hard issues but it also has hope in terms of the meaning of the value of true friendship and acceptance. My pet peeve with this book is simple: it ended too soon. There is no likelihood of another book. I wanted my Disney-style-happy-ending.

Click here to place a hold on Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

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