Book Review: “Eleanor and Park”

unnamed“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance

Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.


While I enjoyed this book, I wasn’t wowed by it like everyone else was.

Blah. Instalove is the worst. I understand how Eleanor and Park fell into liking each other quickly enough. They didn’t have a lot going for them. I just didn’t buy the grand declarations of love and need for the other one after only talking for a few weeks (and doing the non-taking thing for weeks longer). Blah, blah, blah, yes I know teenagers are impulsive, etc. It doesn’t mean I buy it though. Even as the romance progressed, I still wasn’t totally buying the love. To me, it felt more like they didn’t have any other options and that’s why they were together rather than person one liking person two because of who they are.

Rowell did good job of showing how Eleanor didn’t really fit in anywhere. You felt how miserable she was at home. You saw how miserable she was at school. Park needed more work. We’re just told he’s a misfit/outsider. I didn’t really see it. He has friends. There were only a few comments from his dad about him not being masculine. I would have loved to see him be more curious about his Korean heritage from his mom.

There was a really great scene between Park and his mom after they saw Eleanor and her family in the store near Christmas. His mom didn’t really like her until they saw Eleanor in a more ‘natural’ environment. Park’s mom gives him a gift to give Eleanor from her because she understands the difficulties of coming from a large family. In big families, there’s never enough anything so you get what there is even though it’s not enough. It was a nice window into what life was like in Korea for her. I would have loved so see more scenes like that. I know it’s probably difficult for her to talk about but little moments like that sprinkled throughout the book would brought her to life for me more.

The storyline had good intentions but it felt like there was almost too much going on for me. Eleanor was dealing with bullying, abuse, and poverty.  Those are subjects that should be explored more in YA lit but there wasn’t enough time to explore all of them in as much depth as it could have been.

The bottom line? Liked it but it wasn’t my favorite Rainbow Rowell book.

I read this as part of my Reading Outside the Box Challenge. This was for my Young Adult square. See my progress here.

reading outside the box

12 thoughts on “Book Review: “Eleanor and Park”

  1. When I recently read E&P, I almost felt “overwhelmed” by the amount of stuff that didn’t happen, weirdly. I felt like it was so hyped up but had no idea why. I felt so many serious issues were brushed over in this book.

  2. Wow, I think you and I have pretty different reading tastes. I keep coming across your reviews of books that I loved and you didn’t. Eleanor & Park is one, I know you weren’t a fan of How to Train Your Dragon, either, and I loved that.

    I didn’t feel like it was instalove at all between E&P. It felt like a slow-build romance. I do think there was a lot going on, especially for Eleanor, and it was hard to read sometimes, but I also think that’s realistic. A lot of the kids that are picked on, are poor and have not so great family lives. Not all of course.

    I;m sorry you didn’t love this. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

    • Huh, I guess we do. :-/

      Maybe it was just too slow for me so it felt too quick when it happened? It just felt odd to me.

      I can definitely see why so many people loved it but I still “only” liked it. 🙂

  3. This was one of those books that really made me wonder what everyone else was seeing in it that I wasn’t. Granted, I’m not much of a contemporary YA fan, but I know plenty of other people who aren’t either who still rave about this book. And I did really like Rowell’s other two… but this one I just didn’t get. Solid 2-stars from me.

    • Maybe they read this before reading her other books? I read her other two books before I read this and really enjoyed them. I wonder how I’d feel if I had started her work with this book.

      • Possible. My expectations from reading her other books definitely made this one more disappointing. I was expecting to love the characters, even though YA isn’t my thing. After all, I loved Fangirl, and that’s sort of borderline YA/NA. But… no such luck. Oh well. Really looking forward to Landline though.

  4. Pingback: 2014 Youth Media Awards | The Cheap Reader

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