Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Epic Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park. Is there anyone in the YA world who hasn't heard of this book? There was so much raving about it that I bought it as soon as it came out. As per usual, it took a bit of a back burner to 16,000 other things.

But I finally read it and, I'm not going to make any friends saying this, I liked it but I didn't love it.

I went into this book with really high expectations because of all of the praise it is getting. I really expected to be knocked off my feet.

I really adored Park. I love how comfortable he was with who he was. He did things that he wanted because he wanted. He was so genuine. But there were moments when I thought he was a bit too much. Notably when they were separating at the lockers and he made the "back to missing you" comment. The first "I missed you" was fine this was too much. They have classes together. It made me uncomfortable but I think that is more a fault of compatibility between the book and I because I'm more subdued with my feelings. I can handle declarations because they're not constant. Constant need to show affection is too much.

I liked and felt for Eleanor. She was making the best of a really bad situation. Her life was bad and she sought solace in the one thing that made everything brighter. But I wondered with her if she and Park would even be together if she wasn't so broken. In the end with her new life with her uncle, could they be what they were? I feel like her outcast, uncomfortable status is part of what made them what they are. Will they work beyond that? Does it matter?

I read the entire book waiting for the action. I wasn't really enjoying them being together because it was so easy to sense the inevitable falling apart. I was biding my time and when it did happen it happened so fast and with no actual action. It was sort of startling. I think this is in large part because this is how life works. There aren't always epic battles and showdowns.

Their road trip at the end is, by far, my favorite part. There's something about the slow agony of knowing that they're going to separate. And I feel like you know. You know they aren't going to see each other on weekends or talk on the phone every night. The whole trip was this long goodbye.

The feeling that I got from the end reminded me a lot of the feeling that I get through the entire Mercy Falls series (most notably the first two). It's a slow ache. But I didn't think Rowell did it as well as Stiefvater (I am biased). Most of Sam and Grace's relationship is them not knowing how much time they have.

There's also something about the inevitability of Eleanor and Park (the couple) that reminded me of Sam and Grace. There's never any doubt that they just are. They are what they are. I think that sort of being works better when they don't doubt their being together. For example if Sam could stay human there is no doubt to either of them that Sam and Grace would get married. There's not question. Eleanor and Park aren't so certain but they try to be. The gravity of their just being is at odds with their awkward high-school romance. There's no certainty and that makes the story jarring.

I didn't hate Eleanor and Park, not at all. It was a cute, heartrending story that maybe I would have liked more if I hadn't been expecting the holy grail of contemporary(ish) romance.

So, I give Eleanor and Park a rating of Epic.

I know, I am a YA black sheep.

Anyway, next I'm reading Tamora Pierce's Sandry's Book. I got an ARC of Battle Magic and am reading my way through the Emelan books in preparation.


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