Thursday, 14 May 2015

Book review: Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park is officially one of my favourite books.

I've heard so many good things about this book since it came out, sooooo I bumped it up from my summer reading and read it during revision breaks, because I just couldn't wait any longer. And I'm so glad I did, because it is the most wonderful book.

The story follows the lives of the lead characters, Eleanor and Park, two high school students with very different backgrounds. The way that the characters blended together as they went from strangers to far closer than any friends, was such a beautiful thing to watch happen. Eleanor is a girl who can't help but stand out due to her appearance, and Park is a boy that has worked out how to make himself almost invisible. But he's willing to come out from behind his comics to embrace the wonders that Eleanor holds for him.

I was so sad when it ended.

The ending is essentially a new beginning for the two protagonists. It's so full of all the hope that the rest of the story didn't really seem to hold. And I really can't think of a nicer way to end a book. With hope. With a smile. Smiles are something that only Eleanor and Park really shared within the book; they smiled at each other (eventually), but I can't think of a single instance I remember either of them smiling at anyone else. And there's a lot within each smile. The smiles they share seem to mark a progression, one which I don't think either of them initially saw coming. But a great one. As I saw the amount of pages left decreasing I was worried that the story would end in a really sad way. And then Park smiled, and that was all I needed to finish this book.

What I found so strange is the way that I could relate to both of the characters, and the extent to which I could. I'm not saying I'm living in terrible conditions like Eleanor or anything like that; what I mean is, the way that they talk and the thoughts that they think were the things that made the book so relatable. I'm one of those people who likes to write in books and I was constantly underlining phrases and writing little notes, and I love books that allow me to do that. Books that allow me to write myself within the pages, alongside the characters. To understand what they're saying and know that I've felt a lot of the things they've felt too. I think that reading is the most intimate affair there could ever be; an intimacy that the reader shares with no one else. And it's amazing how much you can learn from reading; how much you can learn about yourself.

The two main characters are always reading and listening to music, and even that is something I can relate to. But they don't seem to just read or listen, but they understand. They take it all in and really appreciate it. They allow the books they read and the music they listen to, to help shape who they are and how they feel. The point where Park embraces how he wants to physically look was a wonderful moment in the book; even though his dad was not impressed at all, he did it because he wanted to. And it's kind of sad how Eleanor can't really do the same, and is completely restrained by her step-dad, but she has little things that she can do without him noticing, like wearing Park's necklace; for her, even just embracing who she is in front of Park is a huge triumph.

Some of my favourite lines (there were so many) are:

'... there was the possibility of music.'

'She recited it like it was a living thing. Like something she was letting out.'

'... she didn't want to read in front of him [...] It would be like... admitting something.'

'There was something about the music on that tape. It felt different. Like, it set her lungs and her stomach on edge. There was something exciting about it, and something nervous. It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world, wasn't what she'd thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.'

'He couldn't think about anything at all [...] Except doing whatever he could or had to, to make her happy.'

'You just seem like yourself, no matter what's happening around you.'

'He kept making her feel like it was safe to smile.'

'She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bad, pretending to be somewhere else.'

'Yesterday happens.'

'She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.'

'He got why Eleanor tried so hard to look different. Sort of. It was because she was different - because she wasn't afraid to be. (Or maybe she was just more afraid of being like everyone else.)

'Park was the sun, and that was the only way Eleanor could think to explain it.'

'He knows I'll like a song before I've heard it. He laughs before I even get to the punchline.'

'It felt better than anything had ever hurt.'

'He smiled.'

I love this book. I really do. And I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, in hopes that they'll like it even a tiny bit as much as I do. It is so well written, Rowell's style has the perfect flow, like an 325 page conversation. It mimics a lot of the conversations Eleanor and Park had on the bus, and just works so well.

I'm sure I'll be reading it again soon.

Until next time.

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Exams still aren't fun

Surprise, surprise.

Nothing has changed.

Hi I'm stressed, how are you?

You'd think maybe if you were doing something you're a bit more in to you might enjoy all aspects of it more, but nonetheless, exams are still exams. And I highly doubt they'll ever be classed anywhere close to 'fun'.

So, exam season's just begun and I'm ready to whack myself around the head with every single book I've read over the past seven months (and that would take a while because there have been a lot (and it would also hurt a lot because some of them are really big (although it would probably still hurt less than actually taking the exams))). Ughhhhh. I have three exams over the next 4 weeks and I'm not coping well, to say the least. It's not even very many and I feel kind of relaxed about it sometimes but the rest time I'm just like hahah hah hhhh hhhhhHHH. Yeah. Two of them are three hours long and don't start until 2pm (afternoon exams are literally the worst), and the other one is two hours and early in the morning, which is the sort of timing I much prefer.

The issue is I'm just really bad at dealing with them. Like I prepare endlessly, but that doesn't really count for all that much when it comes to doing the actual thing, because the actual thing is always ten trillion times more daunting when it's actually happening, and even more just before it happens. I think I did a post on revision last year, and what kind of stuff worked for me so I'll link that here if anyone's interested (it's probably a little (very) outdated as I'm sure I've changed a lot of what I do but still, it's there).

Basically, I'm trying not to think about it too much, but obviously I have to think about it because exams are kind of important. It's a constant struggle. I think I just care too much. That's probably my downfall in most areas of my life, sigh. I'm trying to look ahead, because I have so many exciting things coming up after these exams are over, so I'm basically revising for 70% of the day in hopes that time will go faster (disclaimer: it doesn't go faster (ever)). The other 30% of the day is usually dedicating to eating and walking away the stress (it works surprisingly well, so I'd definitely recommend it (probably more the walking part than the eating (but you have to eat sooooo))).

I mean, I remember being pretty stressed out about A Levels because I wanted to get into the uni I'm at now, but now I'm here I'm even more stressed out about it. Like, all the grades from the coursework I've done have been fine, but I just don't want my incapability to do exams to make the overall grade drop, ya know. And I know first year doesn't actually count towards the overall degree and I only need 40% to pass this year, but I want to do the best I can, and give it everything. But unfortunately 'everything' involves all of the stress and panic that leaves me feeling worse than any other time of the year.

This is like the most rambly ughhhhh post ever, I'm so sorry. Pretty sure a lot of people will be feeling the same way I feel right now though, and I really feel for you, because I know I sure wouldn't wish this upon anyone. Anyway, the important thing to remember is that as long as you do your best, it's enough; because you really can't do any more, and I always have to remind myself of that, so make sure you remember too.

Hope everything goes great for you.

Until next time.

Contacts/social media links:
Twitter: @abbielour
Instagram: abbielour
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