Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads Blurb:
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.

I won’t recap the story or gush about how the ending gave me THE FEELS or go over plot details, because this book needs no introduction. Everything about it has been said already and probably said better than I ever could.  This review is more about my thoughts on YA contemporary novels and “edginess”.  

If you’ve been following my reviews you probably noticed that I’m not a fan of hype. It’s not my fault—it just happens I have weird tastes that don’t mesh with that’s popular. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I really fell in love with a popular thing (uh, The Hunger Games counts, I suppose?) and to be honest it’s kind of tough at times. When the whole of Twitter is abuzz about a book or movie or show that you thought was “just okay”… it’s hard not to feel left out. Or like you’re taking crazy pills.

That’s why sometimes I like to read hugely popular books just so I can say, yeah, I read it, and it was all right I guess? Nothing special…

Well, this time was an epic fail.


Yep, I used the F-word in a positive review, because Eleanor & Park first earned my respect when I saw three f-bombs in the very first pages. OMG, I thought. Someone is actually aware of how real teens really talk! In 1986 or 2014, doesn’t matter.

These are real teens!

Contemporary YA is tough to write. There's no magic, spaceships or explosions on every page to distract me from the things that are often lackluster: poor plotting, flat characters, teens who sound and act like they’re 40 (or 4). So I’m super picky about contemporary YA. I have a post on my blog with my contemporary top picks for SFF fans already, but this book is different. There are no high-stakes action scenes, no weird mysteries to unravel—Eleanor and Park aren’t racing to save the world. They’re just trying to stay afloat in it.

And I read it in one breath.

It’s so rare to open a book and see real people on the pages: not carefully smoothed-down, sanitized versions of teens meant to appeal to parents, but REAL PEOPLE, real teens who sometimes think ugly things and who have dark moments, who are irrational and make mistakes, who live and breathe and bleed. I should also mention the censorship attempts against this book, but I think everyone already knows about it and there’s nothing I could add. It just goes to prove how unsettling real teens are to the moralists and puritans. And you know what that means? We need more of them.

More real teens. Because they deserve to open a book and see themselves on the page.

And in this, Eleanor & Park is the ultimate edgy YA novel. 

This is what  a five-star book looks like. 

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