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Eleanor & Park is a cute romance novel, which doesn’t have much in the way of over the top situations, and creates a simple, and possibly authentic, romance.
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
In the fall of 1986, an Asian kid in Omaha named Park, and a heavyset girl of European descent, named Eleanor, find themselves sharing a bus seat. Neither seems to like the other due to their differences and yet Park, due to how weird Eleanor is, finds himself entranced. So slowly he tries to befriend her with comic books, audio tapes, and eventually they go from awkward communication to wanting to hold hands. However, not everything is all cutesy and fitting of an uncomplicated romance. If only because while Park has a well-adjusted life, Eleanor’s is unstable. Her mother is with an emotionally and physically abusive man, one who forced Eleanor into being homeless once. And between his actions, Eleanor’s low self-esteem, and she feeling as if Park is too good for her, there are many things which threaten the relationship.
Some of the highlights include having an Asian love interest, as well as a heavyset young woman as the protagonist; No over the top issue driving the couple apart, but simply the difficulties of life; realistic fights you can see causing issues in an actual relationship; and an ending which may not satisfy everyone, but seems appropriate.
It took around 5 months to finish this book, and it is mostly because it doesn’t use the usual drama I’m used to in YA novels. There is no manic pixie girl trope, two true opposites coming together, and it doesn’t really use any over the top romantic gestures to make you swoon. If anything, Eleanor & Park is very much like two journals combined and we go day by day, week by week, of the two characters first experience with love.
Of which, due to Park not being some rich love interest, nor Eleanor being the girl who had it all, meant anything which happened in the book could happen to you. So without this air of fantasy, and how personal the Eleanor side of things were at times, it was almost like reading someone’s diary than a book. Which is perhaps why it took me so long to finish, and why it pretty much ended my desire to do chapter by chapter reviews.
For while, there is some beauty in an Asian male being presented as a love interest, and a heavyset girl as the one of his affections, there is something about it being an everyday romance which seemed like a shame. Which isn’t to say the parts in which he would talk about loving the way she felt weren’t important, especially in light of how uncomfortable she was in her body, but this book leads me to wonder if simple romance novels, books, and even shows, can really exist? Especially in a day and age where love usually has such dramatic obstacles, and usually the two love birds have more than just a different family life to create issues.
Though, as I say that, I remember Max and Taylor from Finding Carter. Making me think that perhaps on screen this story may be much more interesting to see than read. Now, as for whether or not you should pick this up? Well, honestly I don’t feel like it is worth your time. For Eleanor & Park is bare bones and seeks realism over fantasy. So if you are looking for escapism in a book, you may wanna seek elsewhere.
“Nothing before you counts, and I can’t even imagine an after.”
— “Chapter 40.” Eleanor and Park – Page 184
“I love your name. I don’t want to cheat myself out of a single syllable.”
— Park – “Chapter 19.” Eleanor & Park – Page 89
“You saved my life. […] Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you save my life, and now I’m yours.”
— “Chapter 54.” Eleanor & Park – Page 238
“She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
— “Chapter 28.” Eleanor and Park – Page 131
“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?”
— Eleanor – “Chapter 19.” Eleanor & Park – Page 92
“She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken down déjà vu.”
— Eleanor & Park: Chapter 1 – Page 6