If you have ever read this page where I’ve listed my genre preferences, then you know I hate romances and I am very, very choosy about YA.
I’ve scoffed at Erich Segal’s Love Story and called it highly overrated.
I’ve looked at shelves bearing Nicholas Sparks’ books with a half-contemptuous-half-pitiful “Oh, honey…” expression.
Maybe I am too cynical for my own good. But am I? Because interestingly,
I am also the person who sobbed into her pillow after reading Eleanor & Park.
Oh GOD. What is this book? Which is this bit of an episode from the characters’ lives that reduced me to such ugly crumpliness?! What are these things floating in my mind, all these, what are these – these emotions!!!
Clearly this is an unfamiliar territory for me. Believe me when I say this – I am trying to look at this book objectively and review it as such, but there’s just too much water in my eyes for me to do that.
Genre: YA, Romance
Summary: Before I give you the summary, let me say, this book moves at a very unhurried pace, so each little scene, each little thing hits you like a minitruckload of “feels”. If I do give you a summary, however spoiler-free it may be, it will ruin it for you. So this is all I am going to say: Eleanor is the new girl in town – a tad overweight, with strange clothes several sizes too big for her, lots of unruly red hair – with whom no one wants to share a seat on the school bus. An irritated Park, a half-Korean kid from the neighbourhood, orders her to sit down next to him. Park reads comic books and listens to music. One day he notices that Eleanor has been looking over his shoulder and reading the comics with him (she calls it “eavesreading”). They don’t talk a word, but Park lets her read – waiting a bit longer than usual to turn the page so as to let her finish. Until one day…
Well, that’s all you’re gonna get from me.
Have you ever experienced this – you feel like there’s so much emotion in you that you feel you’re heart is being squeezed and the pain shoots right through your chest to the centre of your palm? It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a glorious feeling. Along with that, the fluttering butterflies in the stomach. I was reading, and every time that pain shot through, all I wanted was some kinda icepick to stab my palm, because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I read this book in secret, because I knew I could collapse into tears any minute and I did not want to call any attention to myself – no one in the family is a reader, and, really, “sobbing because of a scene” was not something I saw myself explaining.
The book explores various themes, such as body image issues (Eleanor’s weight), identity issues (Park’s mother is Korean and he feels like a misfit), abuse, bullying, domestic violence, but the central theme is first love. The characters are well written, but a wee bit too one-dimensional. There’s not a lot of explanation about the characters’ pasts, and the author has spent a little too much time on the romance that she has not entirely done justice to the other themes, in my opinion. The writing style is simplistic, very YA-relateable. I would not call this groundbreaking literature, but for what it is, it works well. I personally liked the first half more than the second, and I wish the ending was not so open-ended. Maybe there’s a sequel coming up? I hope so. I loved the comic book references in the book, especially part where Park looks at Eleanor smiling and thinks she looks like Joker from Batman, then thinks she wouldn’t see it as a compliment, but that’s how he meant it. That was… cute!
A heart warming and heart wrenching tale at the same time, on a rating scale, I would give it between 3.5-4 out of 5.
And remember, this book forces you to remember parts of you that you have forgotten.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s something in my eye.