Forget The Fault in Our Stars. Forget whatever young adult is all the hype right now – this is what you should be reading. If you’ve ever been 16 and in love, if you love music and books (but hate it when writers make their characters sound like pretentious little douchebags – John Green), if you’ve ever found a kindred spirit and had them taken away from you – this is what you should be reading.
The moment I saw the cover for Eleanor and Park, somehow I knew it was different. For the first time in a long time, I was excited for a book. I was so excited and so desperate to read it, I wouldn’t let myself read the scathing reviews on Goodreads (for some reason, reading bad reviews helps me decide when whether I want to invest in a book). I didn’t want to spoil anything, or have anyone build up my expectations, and I didn’t want to know if anyone thought these characters were just another generic, outcast young adult couple.
And boy, was I right to do so. The only taste of Eleanor and Park I let myself have was to read the first page. One taste, and I was addicted. So addicted that I devoured this book in one read. No joke, I stayed up until 6am reading this book. Once I started, I couldn’t stop – I didn’t want to stop, in fear of disrupting the beautiful, magical flow.
Before I really get into this review, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have never cried from reading. Never. I am the heartless, harpy queen. The closest I have ever come was when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and George Weasley had his ear blow off. I put my book down in panic, crying out “No! No!” Another little secret, I have always quite adored George Weasley.
Last night, at page 70, I cried. Not full blown hysterical crying. My throat was tight, my heart twisting in on itself, and my eyes welled with tears.
Something that is truly unique about this book, is the lack of insta-love. I saw someone HAD put this book on an insta-love shelf, and for the life of me I can’t think why. Insta-Love is Bella becoming obsessed with Edward on her first day. It is Hazel going home with Gus the day they meet. It is Luce and… whatever the hell Fallen was about.
Here’s another thing that makes Eleanor and Park unique: the dual point-of-view. Without it, without seeing these two shy outcasts slowly falling in love with each other, this novel simply wouldn’t have been the same.
Park is a romantic soul, consumed by love. Eleanor is a victim of circumstance, in constant fear of rejection or punishment. Without being inside both of these people’s heads, we simply wouldn’t have understood their story. Because that’s the thing about relationships or love stories: it’s a story about two people.
Eleanor and Park are two young outcasts, stuck together on a school bus with creatures from hell their classmates. The first words Park says to Eleanor: “Sit down. Jesus-Fuck, sit down.” The first few weeks of Eleanor and Park’s relationship is silence and begrudgingly accepting they are stuck together as bus-mates. They don’t hate each other, or even dislike each other. They are outcasts.
What brings them together (besides being trapped on the bus) is comic books. After a while, Park notices Eleanor reading over his shoulder. And after a week:
“Park didn’t say anything. He just held his comics open wider and turned the pages more slowly.”
From there, Park starts lending Eleanor comics. First just the issue they were reading, then stacks at a time. All of this, without a word. He just gives them to her, and she wordlessly returns them the next day. Soon, Park is making her mix tapes of her music wish list. Remember the simpler times when you made mix tapes or CDs for your crush? Oh, I miss those days…
That’s not all I miss. I once had a relationship with a truly wonderful boy; someone I would call a soul mate, or someone I would share the meaning star cross’d lovers. So many times through this book, I saw myself and that boy…
“After a few seconds, he reached over and pulled at the old silk scarf she’d tied around her wrist. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. […] He pulled on the scarf again, so she looked at him. She tried not to look mad – but she’d rather look mad than look like she’d spent all night thinking about how beautiful his lips were. […]He was still holding the end of the scarf, rubbing the silk idly between his thumb and fingers. She watched his hand. […] If Park were to look up now, he’d know everything. He didn’t look up. He wound the scarf around his fingers until her hand was hanging in the space between them. Then he slid the silk and fingers into her open palm. And Eleanor disintegrated.”
That was pages 70-71. That was the point my heart melted and screamed at the perfection and beauty.
The whole time reading last night, I was finding quotes I knew I wanted to include in a review. Because this book is full of beauty, real love – and I mean real (I guarantee anyone reading who has been young and in love would have experienced something Eleanor and Park shared), and above all else hope. You know that Eleanor and Park’s relationship will end badly. You know, and Eleanor know, that they are not forever. But that doesn’t make their love any less real, heart-wrenching or soul-consuming. When I was nearing the end of this book, I was hoping, begging, for these two to be given a second chance later in life. And maybe they do, we will never know.
The important thing about Eleanor and Park’s relationship isn’t that it’s first love. It’s not the fact that these are two young kids discovering themselves, discovering love. Their relationship was written in the stars. If not for them to be together forever, then for Park to save Eleanor.
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