Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The timing of this review is coincidental. I swear.

I had been meaning to read a Rainbow Rowell book for a while now, but for whatever reason, I only got to do so two weeks ago when my local library got a reserved copy for me. It looked interesting on Amazon, but I was in no hurry to read it because... I don't know. I guess it was my YA burnout talking. Much of my current interests are focused on the "big deals" of yesteryear, the dystopias and paranormal romances. Contemp... eh?

I should probably say something about what everyone seems to be talking about, aka the John Green effect and whether male authors are more privileged in publishing but... to be honest, I'd rather talk about the book instead. 

"Eleanor and Park" are two teens who fall in love in the 1980's. Park is half-American, half-Korean, who tries to reconcile his identity with what his veteran father thinks should be his identity; Eleanor is the eldest of five who tries to make it through high school and keep out of her stepfather's way.

That's it.

But wait, you say, what about...

No, that's it.

But...

That. Is. It.

And it's enough.

In the grand scheme of things, an abundance of plot lines isn't exactly a bad thing for a novel, but it can get quite exhausting for this reader to keep track and get invested in conflicts which are either left unresolved or hastily tied off in the end. Some stories make it work in under 300 pages, but honestly, to me 5+ plot threads only work in epic fantasy. 

"Eleanor and Park" is a love story, which packs sufficient punch to make you read it until the little hours of the night. There's sweetness and geekery in spades, interwoven with darkness and tension, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. 

Would it have gotten as big as it did without John Green's review of it? I don't know. Maybe it would have. Strange of me to say this, given some of the other things I've written, but "Eleanor and Park" is not the only novel I've seen endorsed by this particular author, and it's certainly the one I have heard people talk most about. While it might have helped some people pick it out among all the other things available in the contemporary YA market right now, there is a good reason why it's so largely loved. It's a damn good love story.

Is it perfect? No, not really. But I liked it, and I want more of this. I want more dual POV books where the protagonists don't repeat everything the other person has said verbatim, but actually contradict each other. I want more realistic villains who are undoubtedly terrible people, but still buy thoughtful Christmas presents. I even want more musical chair antagonists because it helps keep things interesting if we have a long interlude of perfect happiness for our young couple.

I want more heroines with different body types and realistic baggage.

I want more genuinely good, but human heroes. (Yes, your girlfriend does look rather good in a polyester jumpsuit. Glad to see you're human, mate.)

Most of all, I want stories that were written for the sake of the story - not because buzzwords and markets and what's selling and stuff. They're not mutually exclusive things, but I appreciate a story a lot more when it's clear the author loved the characters and loved penning their story.

We need more of those.

Note: Image via BookLikes. 

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