Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Um…okay. Not what I was hoping for.
Published on/by: February 1st 2013 by Orion (first published April 12th 2012)
Page Count: 328 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.
Oh no. I’ve put off reviewing this book for a month now because honestly…I’m still unsure of what to rate this book. My initial rating was 4 stars, because I was too afraid to rate it less than 4 stars. Rainbow Rowell is an acclaimed author, and having bought both Eleanor & Park and Fangirl a year ago in anticipation to join the bandwagon, I guess my expectations were a little too unrealistic.
I expected to love, love, love this book. You have two misfits in high school falling in love? In the 80s? Sign me up. That is my JAM. Everyone knows and loves Rainbow Rowell, everyone has read and loved a Rainbow Rowell book and I think that triggered something in my brain to make me feel like I have no other choice but to love it too, you know? And I know, this is entirely on my own doing. Nobody forced me to impulsively rate it 4 stars at all! It’s just that I felt that I should have liked it more than I really did?
And with that said, I am officially rating this 3 stars. If I’m adhering to the goodreads scale description, I’m definitely on the “it was okay”–which is 2 stars, because that’s how I felt. I did not love/like it very much nor did I hate it. I think I’m just very indifferent towards it. However, 2 stars, for me is a little too low so my final consensus is that this book, for me, is a 3 star read– it was ok.
Wow, I spent so much time explaining my rating that I haven’t even started to defend myself yet! So here goes nothing…
This book was like a cake with icing, without the cake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sweet tooth. Love icing. But it’s nothing without the cake, and unfortunately I felt like this book didn’t have the depth that I hoped to see and feel. Despite the lack of ‘feels’, I really enjoyed the pacing of the book. The writing is easy to follow (sometimes a little too easy, lol), but it wasn’t slow in the slightest and I quite enjoyed that it was told in third person. So many YA’s are told in first person nowadays, in an attempt for readers to relate better to the protagonist, that I think the skill of being able to make such a relatable character through third person so much more special. However, because it was told in third person, I thought the alternating ‘views’ were quite unnecessary, and in result it was slightly choppy and messy.
Another aspect of the book that I liked was the contrast between Eleanor and Park’s home life. I was able to fully see the dysfunctional and abusive environment Eleanor’s home life was and I think that was the strongest point of the book; seeing the dynamics of her household. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to watch and I felt for Eleanor, I really did.
Now, on the aspects that lacked for me…
The time period was almost unnecessary. I don’t think it was fully explored and it sucks because Rowell could have pushed this book to its full potential. The subject of race could have been delved into much further and I honestly felt like showcasing all these races were just tools for ‘Ooh, lookey here! Diversity!’ It just wasn’t enough for me, especially since the book was set in the 1980s. I also thought the book played on a lot of stereotypes regarding Park’s mother and Eleanor’s two African American friends. For a book that avoided exploring the depths of racism and equality of the 80s, in an attempt to make Park just like any other boy, they sure did make Park’s mom and Eleanor’s friends sound like cookie cutter typical Asians and African Americans. Seriously. I liked that Park’s mom’s background was explored but there was almost zero development on Eleanor’s so-called friends. I felt like they were just there, and nothing else.
And that brings me to the biggest issue I had with this book–the romance. I can say with full conviction that the relationship between Eleanor and Park could have worked better as a friendship. Well, in my opinion. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get why they liked or thought they loved each other. Seriously. This was insta-love in full effect. I think Rowell tried to avoid the label of insta-love by making them hate each other’s guts in the beginning (also for no good reason) but she pretty much failed because just one day after, they suddenly want to bite each other’s faces off and hold hands and undress each other and whatnot. It was just so sudden and at first, I thought it was really cute. I mean, lust. Who hasn’t experienced lust? But soon, I just thought it was really, really annoying. Especially after Park was convinced he was in love. What followed were wrinkles. Lots of them. From the cringing. The reasons why they liked each other was just so vague and unexplored and I felt like the book served the romance on a plate and was like, “Eat this. We have nothing else on the menu, so you best be eating or you’re gonna starve!”. SERIOUSLY. I know it’s a weird analogy but as soon as the romance kicked in, I felt like this is all the book had to offer. I know it’s a story of first love and coming-of-age experiences and whatnot, but it just felt like the romance was trying so hard and there was no where else that I could escape to find any other redeeming aspects…well apart from Eleanor’s home life BUT IT’S SO GODDAMN DEPRESSING! To sum it up, I know that their feelings for each other was supposed to provide an escape for Eleanor but I just felt that it was contrived and overdone and slightly unrealistic.
So yeah. That was my review/ramble and I am probably going to put off Fangirl till the disappointment wears off.