I had previously read Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, which was set as we were nearing the end of the millennium: with computers being the height of technology. However, Rowell’s next novel Eleanor and Park is set in 1986 and this attracted me as I’m in love with 80’s films such as Say Anything, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink so I was expecting a similar light-hearted romantic-comedy. Oh, how wrong was I?! This novel is about young love, but it is takes a gigantic leap away from the ideals of a Hollywood romance and plummets almost into grime.
Eleanor belongs to a misfit family in which she is the diamond in the rough, her mother is an idiot with an abusive boyfriend who frightens the rest of the children with his violent behaviour. Eleanor also has to rush home from school to make sure she can have a quick bath before the evil dictator comes back and causes havoc. Then, on the other hand we have Park- the son of an Asian military family- now let’s not say he’s living the life of luxury, but compared to Eleanor he really truly is. He’s got the comfort of a happy family, a family with dinner times and his own bedroom with his own comic book collection. This is what brings Eleanor and Park together, and its quite possibly the most authentic way of creating first-love- Park reads comics on the bus (Watchmen) whilst Eleanor cheekily reads them over his shoulder. The pair do not speak to each other for weeks, or so it seems that way, and I feel that this grasps the concept of young, shy love so very well.
When you like someone in early high school (year 7-8) you rarely have the courage to let them know that, you drop hints and find out what they like to try and artificially-naturally get them to fall in love with you. What I love most about this book is how even tiny moments make the most impact. It’s exactly how it is in real life, especially during the first stages of your first ever relationship- you’ve never held a boy’s hand before, you’ve never let one hug you softly and for longer than a couple of seconds- it’s all brand new. Eleanor and Park captures this fantastically, and insofar that you fall in love with the couple and the book itself towards the climax. This is where it started to break my heart. Eleanor and Park were just hitting it off, getting to know each other more and simultaneously breaking out of their shells and just when you think we’re going to have a happy ending disaster strikes and the novel sprints to the finish full of drama, and then fizzles out while your heart falls out of your chest as we realise that their imperfect love, was nothing more than imperfect and that love, love will tear us apart.
It’s the perfect read for anyone who loves a good, authentic love story with no unrealistic figures. I’m very excited for her next novel Fangirl which I pre-ordered on my kindle the day before its release (10th September 2013) but haven’t gotten round to yet, and it’s all Game of Throne’s fault.