Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

He'd stopped trying to bring her back. ~ Opening of Eleanor and Park




Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
Listening Library, 2012
Fiction (YA, Romance); 8 hrs, 56 mins

I generally do not gravitate towards young adult romance novels, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. Many book bloggers I know loved this one, and some didn't. What would I think?

I chose to listen to the audio version and am glad I did.  Even if it did take me five months to listen to it. It's not the book's fault.  Really, it isn't. For the first half of the book, I was listening every chance I got, and then suddenly I wasn't. I couldn't find the time but in fits and spurts.  I hate listening to an audio book that way, and so I opted not to listen at times I probably could have. I'm a terrible audio book listener.

But that's neither here nor there. You want to know about the book.
From the Publisher:
Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, playing the parts of Eleanor and Park, I fell in love with the characters and their story almost immediately. I adored Park and Eleanor, and could relate to both of them in one way or another. Eleanor is the girl I wish I could have been. Even with her insecurities and dysfunctional family, there was a strength and confidence about her that drew me to her. She was honest and smart, thoughtful and real. It is obvious she is a fighter, especially given her family situation--a mother who obviously loves her but is unable to protect not only her children but also herself from an abusive and alcoholic husband, Eleanor's stepfather. Not to mention the negativity she faced at school from her peers. My heart ached for her much of the time, and yet I also knew she would be okay somehow.

Park, raised by two loving parents, has his own battles to fight as he begins to come into his own, even when it goes against what his parents expect and want from him. Park is such an easygoing character, smart in his own right, and a good friend. Park may have been apprehensive about befriending the new girl at first, but I appreciated that he looked beyond what everyone else might think and followed his own heart and path.  The two complement each other, Park bringing out the best in Eleanor and her in him.

I think it was smart on the author's part to have the two running narratives throughout the book, allowing the reader into the thoughts of both Eleanor and Park. It helped me see what each of the characters saw in each other, and I couldn't help but fall in love with them too. I felt their frustrations and heartache, I wanted to shake them when they were being dumb, and I wanted to wrap them both in my arms and hug them. I wanted to protect Eleanor, to save her.

I also like that the author chose to set the novel in 1986. I enjoyed the pop culture references, even though I was a bit younger than Eleanor and Park at that time. The use of cassette tapes to record music and messages for each other was something my husband and I did early on in our relationship (admittedly, that was in the early 1990's). I was never into comic books growing up, but I am sure my husband was.

I am not one to remember or jot down quotes generally, but with this book, there were several that touched a chord with me--and, darn it, because I was listening to the audio, mostly while driving, I couldn't exactly write them down or highlight them so I would remember. Some of those quotes made me smile and others that made me melt a little inside, remembering when I fell in love for the first time, not to mention how intense and all-consuming it was.

There were very few surprises in Eleanor and Park. No unexpected twists I did not see coming.  And that was okay. I was lost in the romance of the story. I would not have minded knowing more about Eleanor's family history than was offered, but this did not hurt my enjoyment of the book. And I would not have minded more depth in regards to Eleanor's family--I worried most about her siblings. The love story between Park and Eleanor was obviously the main focal point of the novel. And even then, Eleanor was at its center in many ways. Her story was the most compelling, certainly.

I do not know if this is a book I would have enjoyed as much in print as I did listening to the audio. It isn't a book I would have picked up to read had it not been highly recommended by so many of my bookish friends. I had my doubts going in but was more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

To learn more about author Rainbow Rowell and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Source: I purchased the audio version of this book for my listening pleasure.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

29 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this book too; I think the author has captured their voices and emotions very well. I found myself cheering for them throughout my reading journey.

    I've read most books by Lowell except Landline; I've read mixed reviews of it so perhaps that's one reason why I'm not in a hurry to read it.

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    1. Melody - It was hard not to cheer for them, wasn't it? They are such likable characters. I do want to read more by Rowell at some point. Like you, I've heard mixed reviews of Landline, so I imagine that won't be my next book by her.

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  2. I listened to this on audio and loved it! The characters are so good and so believable. I adored Park's mom!

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    1. Kathy - The audio was so good! The narrators did such a good job. I really liked Park's mom too. :-)

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  3. I still haven't read this, but have read so many positive reviews.I read Attachment by Rowell several years and and thoroughly enjoyed it!

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    1. Jenclair - Maybe I should make Attachments my next book by Rowell. :-)

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  4. I've been on the fence about this one. I read Attachment by her and enjoyed it even though it was one I had to focus on at first and it's gotten amazing press. Like you though I'm not drawn to YA romance. I'm glad you enjoyed it in audio form as I noticed not too long ago that my library had it in audio and I was wondering if it would work like that. Sounds like that's the way I'll go.

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    1. Katherine - I would recommend the audio version--but then, I have nothing to compare it too. :-)

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  5. I hadn't heard anything about this one, but it sounds like a good clean young adult read. Thats a bummer it took so long to listen to, it sounds like it both hooked you but wasn't a real thrill ride. Great review:D

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    1. Lanie - Yes, it was really sweet (but not sugary sweet--just young romance sweet, if that makes sense). I really blame the length it took me to listen to it on me. I'm very resistant to audio books. You'd think I would give them up then, but I feel the need to challenge myself.

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    2. I understand:) I havent tried audiobooks myself yet, but I've been avoiding them because I know I wont pay attention when the narrator speaks!

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  6. I loved this one. So sweet and with so much angst! This was my first Rowell book and then I read many more after that and thought they were meh.

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    1. Ti - That's not good. Good that you loved this one--it's so good!--but not good that you haven't been impressed with her other books. I've found that with Ursula Hegi's books. I loved Stones From a River, but her other books just haven't been as good.

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    1. Diane - I am so glad I chose to read the book that way!

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  8. I've not read this one but have heard so much about this. All positive. Looking forward to this one.

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    1. Mystica - I hope you enjoy it if you do read it!

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  9. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one. I haven't yet tried this author myself but I will at some point because like you I have heard so many good things. Thinking that I might try the audio format as well since you recommended it. Thanks!

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    1. Samantha - I am glad I gave her a try. I had a lot of reservations given her books didn't especially appeal to me initially. I do think the audio version was well done.

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  10. I, too, have been curious about this book based on so many fabulous reviews. Since I am trying to read more MG and YA books, perhaps it is time I pick it up as well.

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    1. Molly - She definitely is an author to try, I think. I will be curious to know what you think of her writing if you give her a try!

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  11. I'm a terrible audio book listener too! I'm so glad you were able to get through this one and that you enjoyed it so much! I loved this story. Great characters and like you I enjoyed the time frame. Can't wait to read more books by her.

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    1. Iliana - I never make the time to listen. I'm so terrible. I am curious to know what I'll think of her other books. I am glad you liked this one too!

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  12. Glad you liked it. Sadly I think Rowell is not for me, but I understand why so many love her work.

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    1. Jillian - Right after I wrote my review of this one, I read a negative one that talked about the cliches and stereotypes throughout. It wasn't something I noticed as I read, but I think the reviewer made some valid points.

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  13. Glad you liked this one despite struggling with the audiobook. I liked it too, didn't love it though. I thought both Eleanor and Park were such wonderful characters. Have you read her other books?

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    1. Athira - I haven't yet read anything else by her.

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  14. This one sounds so wonderfully sweet. I still haven't read anything by Rowell but don't know where to start—I seem to hear great things about all of her novels!

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    1. Shaina - Yes, all her books seem to receive lots of praise. I do want to read something else by her, but I'm not sure which one yet.

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