Rainbow Rowell: still the queen of cuteness. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: 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.
This is the third full-length novel by Rainbow Rowell I’ve read, and I’m pleased to report I enjoyed it as much as Fangirl and Carry On.
Told from the alternating first-person viewpoints of the titular characters, Rowell (once again) shows her skill in depicting those small moments in which very two different people gradually realise they have more in common than they thought and, hang on a minute, actually kinda like each other. This section of the book, in particular, is adorable and made me grin like an idiot. The 80s setting didn’t hurt either and I loved that they were able to connect through the music of the time: lots of excellent nostalgia for a slightly more mature (*ahem*) reader like me.
E&P is a fantastic depiction of teenage love and friendship, in its all-consuming, overwhelming glory. When the characters say they’ve missed each other, even though they’ve only been apart for a few hours, it brought back strong memories of high school, when we used to see each other all day and then “have” to spend half the evening on the phone chatting about nothing much.
As you may have guessed from the blurb, this story doesn’t have a typical “happy ever after” ending. To which I say, “good”. They’re sixteen, for goodness sake! Having them waltz off into the sunset would just be weird. Besides, the darker, sadder aspects of the story (mostly revolving around poor Eleanor’s home life – I wanted to adopt her and all her siblings pretty much instantly) provided much needed balance to the fluffier parts of the narrative.
Overall: Eleanor & Park is a touching portrayal of the beginnings of fuzzy young love, tempered by some harder reality. A great choice if you like romance stories which are cute, but not sickly sweet.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul