Saturday, April 12, 2014
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
If you like: mixed tapes * young love * guy-liner
Eleanor & Park is a story of falling in love and all of the obstacles that can get in the way. Eleanor meets Park on her first day at a new school when she tries to find an empty seat on her new bus. Park reluctantly makes room for her, and with each ride they get to know each other a little better. Eleanor is an outcast; she is new, she stands out with bright red hair, and she comes from a poor family and must make due with very little. The music and comics that Park introduces her to help her escape a little bit from her life. As they get closer, he tries to help her become a part of his world, but her stepdad is an obstacle too big to overcome.
Eleanor and Park are the kind of couple that seem destined for each other. They both have gripping insecurities that keep them locked inside their own heads. As is often the case, what they find to be ugly about themselves is incredibly alluring to the other. Both Eleanor and Park stand out in their school, but they don’t come together because they are outsiders. Their attraction is developed out of common interests and the sweet moments of first love. Their blissful togetherness is often marred by the reality of their lives. Eleanor’s life is so restricted that she is constant fear of having the joy of being with Park be ripped away from her. They do not allow these constraints to force them into rash decisions, in fact they openly mock Romeo and Juliet, but the reality of life outside of the two of them does make their time together all the sweeter.
Young adulthood is often impaired by the difficulties of finding yourself and realizing that your views don’t always align with those of your parents. The kids who are lucky are able to find a way to angstily work with their parents to find a compromise they can all tolerate. Park is one of these kids. Though his differences with his father prevent them from being as close as they both wish they could be, there are no hurdles that cannot be overcome. They have their differences, and will never have a close bond, but they are able to have an understanding that creates a different sort of bond between them. At heart, they both want to do what is right, to be good men. This link helps them to work around their different interests and views. Eleanor is much less lucky. She comes from a broken home, and has a stepdad who is the type of man who is a destructive force that poisons everything he touches. Just returning after being kicked out for a year, she is treading lightly on thin ice in everything she does. She wants to be with her family, but longs to escape the despair of the household. Her life was filled with difficulty long before she grew up, and gaining her own agency and perspective only makes matters worse. Living with an unpredictable force makes life a waking nightmare for her. There is no place at home that is calm or safe. It is like living with a ticking time bomb that has no counter: you never know when it will go off. Being with Park and seeing how life could be helps her to understand what she must do. It is not enough to temporarily escape, she knows that she must take action in order to help herself. Love is a lot, but it is not enough to guarantee safety and shelter. The tragedy of Eleanor and Park’s love story is not a battle between two households with an ancient grudge between them. Their love is not star-crossed, but that doesn’t mean their happy ending is within arms reach. Together they learn a lot about who they are, and who they are becoming. They also learn that sometimes a the best option isn't the one you want.
If you hated riding the bus until you found the right seat, read Eleanor & Park.
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. St. Martin's Press, 2013. Kindle Edition.