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Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell Is it wrong to believe going in to a novel that you WILL love the book or else you will be completely wrong about yourself? Because going into ELEANOR AND PARK, I was pretty confident that this book could do no wrong. In most cases, this would pretty much be setting me up for disaster (see REBOOT).Well… Maybe this was the one time where my instincts were correct. Even with a few issues that nagged me, I loved ELEANOR AND PARK. It might have been because it resonated with my life, or because I loved the 1980s and everything related to it (even though I was barely alive during it), but there was something about this book that stayed with me for days after finishing it, enough that I went out and started recommending it to strangers in the bookstore. I think they might have thought I was creepy. It’s less creepy on the internet, though, isn’t it?SO THERE’S THIS BOOK….I’ve seen several reviews point out a number of issues with this book, namely with our hero Park’s parents and their relationship. Even though I should know better than to let this slide under the rug, as I read I kind of ignored it. I know plenty of real life people whom this has happened with. One of my best friends growing up is the daughter of a retired US soldier who met his Korean wife while serving in Korea, except that was during the 1980s. One of my friends now is living in Korea dating a Korean man. But this point aside – I think the main reason why I identified so heavily with this book was because I saw me in Eleanor. Growing up, I really was a poor, thrift store-savvy, slightly overweight girl without a lick of fashion sense. And luckily I’ve grown into the same girl with a little more fashion sense. Eleanor is one of the best-written female protagonists I’ve read in awhile, a girl just desperate to keep her wits about her as her life crumbles into ashes slowly but surely.Park, on the other hand, is the type of guy I used to hang out with in high school – the type of guy you meet at the “others” table beyond the cool kids, the geeks, the nerds, the band kids, the drama fanatics, etc. Just the kids too busy listening to music or reading to care about the politics of the lunch room. Once again, a character after my own heart.THE EIGHTIES FOR THE MILLENNIAL GENERATIONRowell has a way with words. It’s clean and sparse, told in a third person point of view (which, for dual POVs, is what I prefer to be honest). It’s the work of a true writer when the author is able to still convey emotions and get you into the mindset of a character when you’re left outside their heads. Rowell is an expert of this, and I look forward to reading more of her work if this is repeated across books.But where the story went a little wrong for me was that at times it seemed that more focus was needed elsewhere from our burgeoning relationship. I wanted to know more about Eleanor’s family, for instance – what caused their situation, her mother’s issues, her father walking out on the family. A lot of it seemed glossed over. Similarly with Park’s family, I felt something was missing, like the puzzle in the story was not yet completed. Some more could have easily been added and some of the repetitive courtship eliminated.Overall, this is an excellent story for teens and adults, especially adults who were in high school in the 80s. This novel will go down as one of my bright spots of 2013, or at least the early part of it, and it has and will be a story I keep recommending over and over again to friends and the readers of my reviews. Pick up a copy of this book today. I can ALMOST guarantee that you will love it.VERDICT: Although at times the romance overwhelms the story, ELEANOR AND PARK is a breath of fresh air in young adult contemporary fiction. A must read.