I know I already fangirled about Rainbow Rowell in my Book Rawrview of Fangirl, and appropriately so. I meant to do the same for Attachments but kept putting it off and now it seems too far away, so I’ll just say that I highly recommend reading that, too, although it is a book for adults.
Anyway, yesterday I finished another book by Rowell and, as my friend pointed out, I’ll probably never finish a book by her and not say ‘Oh my god, that was the best book I ever read!’ Eleanor & Park touched me on a level that I didn’t even know existed. What sticks out with Rowell’s writing for me is that I can relate to her characters so very, very well. A lot of readers may find them annoying and unnecessarily difficult, like they’re deliberately trying to see the negative side of things. What I see, though, is someone who would love to see another side but is trapped within their own fears and anxiety.
With Eleanor that sympathy reached another level, of course. So far, her story is the most tragic of all the characters in Rowell’s books so far. All of them encountered heartache, family problems, anxiety, self-loathing and a bunch of other personal tragedies. But with Eleanor, her life is so unfair, so full of negativity and both, physical and mental, abuse, it’s hard to read it without cussing every few pages. Her domestic situation is so bad that I don’t think most readers will even begin to understand what that’s like. I certainly don’t and my childhood wasn’t always peachy. And yet, I can relate to her because I know what it’s like to struggle with what was, what is and what will be.
And then there’s the slowly blossoming friendship and then love when she meets Park. It’s an almost violent opposite. When she’s home, Eleanor’s life is hell. When she’s with Park, everything seems bright and beautiful. And yet, Eleanor can’t help herself, she has to be doubtful and cynical about this new situation, won’t allow herself to accept it, let alone enjoy it.
Even though this book is for young adults and what Eleanor and Park share is essentially puppy love, it contains the most beautiful couple scene I’ve ever read. It’s simple, completely innocent and not even a key scene but it made me cry happy tears for them because it was just so, so, beautiful.
I also love that it’s set in the 80’s. Apart from the fact that the absence of the Internet and mobile phones makes communication for Eleanor and Park quite a lot more difficult, the era it’s set in doesn’t make much of a difference for the story. But I just love the 80’s soundtrack of this book (The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division…) and I also enjoy the mental image of the two of them settled on the floor and listening to cassette tapes on a giant stereo.
This book is so simple but exciting and just beautiful. I wish I could pressure everyone I know into reading it.