Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

As I was pacing back and forth between the shelves of my school library, a title caught my eye. I’d seen advertisements of its cover plastered on bookstore windows and even in Walmart. It had been praised by several critics as one of the best Young Adult books of all time, yet I still had not read it. So, out of simple curiosity, I picked it up and started reading.
I wish I could say that I went home and fell in love with this book.  I wish I could say that I immersed myself into the pages and wasn’t able to put it down. I wish I could say that I didn’t force myself to finish it simply to write this review.
I wish I could, but I can’t.
Eleanor and Park was not the book for me.

The story itself wasn’t necessarily awful- it was a simple love story of two misfits. Park, an outcast because of his ethnicity, and Eleanor an outcast for her obesity and her overall appearance. Both of their family lives are less than fortunate, although Eleanor’s is more so. She lives with her mother and alcoholic stepfather, who abuses her verbally and often loses his temper. Park has to live with the disappointment his father feels for him constantly hanging over his head. These two misfits meet, they fall in love, and everything in their lives start to change the moment they meet each other.
Does it sound familiar?

That is exactly why Eleanor and Park did not work for me. It was a good story, a heartwarming story, of two teenagers who can’t find their place in the world- yet somehow find each other. This is nothing new. It’s the basic love story, the one we’ve watched on Disney Channel and read in John Green novels and seen in countless romance novels and films. There seems to be some sort of recipe: a boy and a girl who don’t conform to social norms that end up meeting each other; a conflict, whether it be internal or external, that is forcing them farther and farther apart, etc etc. Finally, the inevitable goodbye- the type of goodbye that gives you an ending (yet it could possibly be a new beginning.)

I’ve read it all before. Sometimes I even love that kind of story, but more than often I grow tired of it. To me, in order for that recipe to work, the author has to throw something else into the mix that brings variety to the flavor. A different voice or language style or an unexpected turn in the storyline usually does the trick. I think I was supposed to be shocked- but the shock value was decreased dramatically because this story was so predictable. It measured out every ingredient of the recipe perfectly and followed all the steps. In the end, it came out as a perfect chocolate chip cookie type of story.

I don’t want chocolate chip. From time to time, I enjoy it. Yet, most of the time I want something different. A snickerdoodle. A pumpkin cookie. An apple cinnamon cookie. For me, this story just wasn’t different enough. It had flavor- it had plenty of flavor. It was just the same flavor of every other romance novel. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. There was nothing remarkable that will stick in the back of my mind.

It wasn’t life changing and it didn’t sit down and make me rethink my perspective. It was simply a good book.

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