Just the facts:
Overall: 2 Stars
Addiction Level: I read it when I had spare time.
Believe-ability: It was believable.
Dystopia Factor: Eh. It’s “normal” life.
I’m not sure where to start with this book. It seemed to have rave reviews and since I’ve been reading a little bit of realistic fiction I thought I’d give this a try. I was aware that there was quite a bit of colorful language (over 200 swear words, according to this article. It also includes an interview with Rowell on the subject.) before I started and that it was being accosted by those who find joy in banning books. (This, regardless of the way I feel about this book, is not something I support at all.) What I found, however, is that first impressions stick with you, even when you try to lay them aside.
My first impression of Eleanor & Park was disgust at the amount and variety of vulgar language. (Rowell supports her use of profanity in the above mentioned article, but as a reader I don’t really agree with all she has to say.) I really hate it when authors use profanity and particularly a lot of it. I find that it distracts from the story. Every time I came across string of curse words I was immediately pulled out of the story world and I had to try to force myself back in. It felt like I was involved in some stupid tug of war. Story world versus reality. Reality was pretty strong, by the way.
After I got past the constant tug of war (which nearly made me quit the book) and finished the story I was mostly dumbfounded at the praise Eleanor and Park’s love story had received. Honestly, I didn’t find it that wonderful. There are plenty of amazing depictions of falling in love in young adult literature. This was not one of them. And that’s saying something – I’m a bit of a sucker for a good love story. (I’m very happily married to my high school sweetheart, at that.)
What I found most enjoyable about Eleanor & Park was actually Park’s family. (Not the aim of the story I’m sure.) I really enjoyed the relationship that Park’s parents have. Park may have found them embarrassing, but what would the world be like if more parents were in love like they were? Children need the example of their parents to show them what love really is. And it’s good for children to see their parents show affection towards one another.
Lastly, I will say that there was one scene in the book that really moved me. About half way through the book, Park’s mother comes to him seeking his forgiveness for how she had been treating Eleanor. I loved how, even though it was difficult for her, she realized that her behavior toward Eleanor was not what it should have been and it pains her to realize this. She is very open and honest during this exchange and it quickly became the best part of the book for me.