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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