I’m not even sure where to begin with this thing, to be honest. Here, let me just show off these two covers to momentarily distract you.
Both of these UK covers were illustrated by the brilliant Debbie Powell. I blathered on about the loveliness of both the US and UK covers for E&P (and interviewed author Rainbow Rowell) a few posts ago, too.
Okay, so where was I? Oh, yes, I’m supposed to be writing a review. I’ve basically been bubbling over the surface ever since reading Rainbow Rowell’s first novel, Attachments, a few weeks ago. Y’all. It was good. If we’re Goodreads friends, I’ve got a review (of sorts) of it here. After some online squeeing to my blogger friends who originally introduced me to her work, I then decided to read Eleanor & Park. Only halfway into it, I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d be reviewing it on the blog.
So, here I am.
Here’s brief summary of E&P from Goodreads:
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
The summary is a bit problematic because in its brevity, it fails to mention some pertinent facts, IMO:
1) You can’t get these characters out of your head.
Park is now my favorite YA boy. Sorry, Todd Hewitt (Chaos Walking series). Sorry W.W. Hale (Heist Society). Park is the quintessential nice guy who 16-year-old me would’ve tripped over her own two feet to date. From always respecting his mother to his shyness to his obsession with music and comics all the way down to his no-nonsense clothing, he captured my heart as soon as he thought it was weird that a redhead would have brown eyes (strange, I know). I’m so glad that this novel was dual-perspective so I could float around in his brain. Eleanor’s a bit more of a complicated character, but that doesn’t make her harder to love. She’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders, but throughout the book you can’t help but commend her because she’s only doing things the best way she knows how. And the girl definitely goes through some stuff. Despite her crappy life circumstances, her voice was so distinct and brazen. But reading their voices together, one after the other, was like watching a chemical reaction (of lurve) across 300+ pages.
2) You’ll want to re-read parts over and over again.
It’s no mystery that this novel is a love story. The cover declares it. The title declares it. The blurbs declare it. If you absolutely despise romance there’s no reason you should read this novel. But the way their love unfolds throughout (the beginning of their relationship is downright abrasive) is the part that will make you swoon. For lack of a better description, I’ll compare it to one of those little magic capsule toys that you set in water. (Even better, those are 80′s toys which is fitting since this novel takes place in 1986.) It starts out small, in a little pill form, until you drop it in water. Then it expands into something bigger than you ever expected. And it’s not instantaneous. It starts to take shape and form slowly and then before you know it, their love is this all encompassing thing and it’s in the shape of
a tyrannosaurus rex something that you just want to squeeze. Okay, maybe that was a terrible description, but you get what I mean. Rowell’s writing oozes honey when describing all of the “firsts.” And believe me, there are some sigh-inducing, incredibly sweet, heart-wrenching, get-these-butterflies-out-of-my-chest firsts.
3) Rowell’s writing will make you take pictures of the book with your phone.
There are lines that will make you laugh, and there are lines that will make you sigh. And if you’re like me, you might even cry for 20 pages straight. But I like to take pictures of lines that make me laugh.
And of course I’m a sucker for the literary slap.
There are many, many other reasons I loved this book (and there are many, many more lines). The diversity aspect is a unique one that I personally haven’t read (yet) in YA — I can only imagine it being a delicate and difficult thing to write and develop a hapa MC. But it’s hard not to be completely drawn to a character who grew up basically like yourself. My dad’s black and my mom’s Asian — like Park’s mom, and they also met while my dad was in the military. Diversity didn’t drive the story to move forward, though; it was only a small part of it.
There’s a part of me that wants to compare my experience of reading this novel to a giant heap of feelings. I want to shout, “Look, this is how this book made me feel!” If I could, it’d be like trying to grab every emotion I experienced from reading I’ll Be There, Shiver, Sweethearts and throw in a generous helping of tinglies from reading a few contemporary romance novels. That could accurately describe my feelings, sure. I think Eleanor & Park deserves more than that, though. It deserves all of the description that a heart-wrenching first love brings, because for me, that’s what it definitely delivered.
E&P isn’t available in the US until March 2013 (although Amazon claims February 26). For those of you who’d like to pick up the UK version, I purchased my copy through Fishpond (free shipping, too). Or, you can hang around this space until next year, where I probably won’t be able to shut up about this book as its release date approaches. There may be a giveaway as well.