Young Adult is a genre that has often been undermined by readers and critics for being naïve and thus YA literature is yet to be been taken seriously. Personally, I am not a big fan of romance, especially teenage romance. But this Christmas I wanted to do some “light” reading and for that I chose Eleanor & Park. Honestly, how complicated CAN a YA romance be?!
But boy, was I wrong! Eleanor & Park is a deep, complicated story of two teens who experience love in the blossoming stage of their lives. But, first things first – I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this book. I love how complex the characters and their situation is. They are relatable and at the same time their romance and courage is unbelievable.
I was so glad to realize that Eleanor & Park is not another naïve and flowery teenage romance. They struggle with the odds and make it past the bullies, dysfunctional families, bodily insecurities and such. I like how simply Rainbow Rowell introduced Eleanor and Park to each other – through music, books and comics – pretty much how every romantic relationship or friendship is initiated. There are no OTT elements and I’m really grateful for it. Teenagers have been portrayed as free thinking and intelligent human beings who aren’t all about drinking and drugging (phew, no clichés). Most books show young romance as hormone fueled romances where lust is the only driving factor. But Eleanor & Park shows what young romance is ACTUALLY like. Rowell beautifully captures the awkwardness of the first kiss and the nervousness of the first intimacy. It’s both funny and nostalgic at the same time. There’s this part in the book where Park says about Eleanor, “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something” – I found this so very beautiful. This is so much more intimate and mature than anything I have read in an adult romance. Also, rainbow Rowell very cleverly bends the gender role in this book – Eleanor wears men’s clothing and isn’t too fond of make-up whereas Park experiments with make-up and tries his hand at eyeliner. Also, during a particularly intimate moment, Eleanor says, “You can be Han Solo and I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.” They are fearless and have no qualms for being “different”. I applaud Rowell for not settling into rigid structures of romance and letting the characters think for themselves.
I loved Rainbow Rowell’s style of writing and although the language is pretty romantic and decorative yet it did not made me want to barf. It was perfect. Eleanor and Park are artists. They saved my life. Eleanor & Park reinforced my belief in the power of books and music. Eleanor & Park reinforced my belief in love. Eleanor & Park reinforced my belief that love does win against and all odds and people who are meant to be together will always somehow find a way to be so. And as John Green correctly said, “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book. Grab a copy and prepare yourself to be hit by immense amount of feels!