Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Eleanor and Park
Warning: This post contains spoilers. Typically I can put together a review and still be vague enough to not give anything away, but not this time.
Eleanor is used to being different, but in this new school, there is no room for different. It's not that she wants to be this way, but when your family is as troubled as Eleanor's, being normal is not an option. She shares a bedroom with her four siblings, there is no door on the bathroom and she must tiptoe around her mother's abusive boyfriend. Meanwhile, Park comes from an ideal family and seems to be a perfectly normal teen, but one move, letting Eleanor sit next to him on the bus, changes everything that is important to him. They start out by sharing comic books, then music, then start holding hands, then fall dangerously in love. Told by both Park and Eleanor, this is story about high school love and fighting for something more.
There is a huge marketing push going on behind this book. I personally received two ARCs of this title and I'm not that well connected in the publishing world. There are banner adds all over my Children's Bookshelf newsletters, it's all over Goodreads, and it's just plain to see that the book packagers are trying really hard to make this book fly.
In my opinion, all that effort has worked against them. To me, this is classic case of the book not living up to the hype.
In some ways, the plot is really slow. You get a lot of Eleanor and Park trying to figure out how to be together, and then just hanging out. Eleanor keeps holding back from Park, not giving him all of the information, honestly, not letting him love her. This relationship is super one-sided. Park tells Eleanor over and over again how much he loves her, and she never says it back. Maybe she doesn't believe that she is worthy of being loved, or maybe she can't say the words because she'd never heard them before Park. She obviously feels very strongly for him, but she can't believe that this will end well because she has never seen a functioning relationship in her life.
Let's talk about the ending. I suspected Eleanor's stepdad Richie of the graffiti on her books for quite a while, so that wasn't the shock that it was supposed to be. And while it was a little chilling to think that he was going to seriously abuse her, but he was just biding his time, that honestly didn't make for much of a climax. The worse part is that Eleanor's little sister, Maisie is still in the house and seems to have already been abused by Richie.
Then Eleanor runs away, to an uncle that offered to have her stay for the summer, and Park's dad let's him take the truck, because he's that kind of father. Actually he offers to hurt Richie, which would have been more exciting. Eleanor and Park start this road trip and long goodbye that's just awkward. Then Eleanor goes to her uncle's, her family seems to escape Richie, and Park just goes home to pine over Eleanor. Unrequited love at it's best I suppose, and maybe more realistic than the other options, but ultimately pretty plain for a book that is getting such amazing buzz.
I don't agree. I absolutely don't agree with the 4.26 average rating on Goodreads, I don't agree with Gayle Forman's blurb, and I don't agree with all of the hype that has been surrounding this book.
I was ultimately disappointed. I wanted a tale of high school romance that was more nostalgic for 80's, rather than dropping in veiled references when the action was a little slow. I wanted more music, more action, more intensity. This was like Edward and Bella in terms of sappiness without the benefit of an action packed subplot. For all the hype, it just fell short.
Moving on. I read a fascinating article today. Think of it as confessions of a former ghost writer. If you read Sweet Valley High at any point in your life, I highly recommend that you check out, The Ghost Writes Back.
Now, it's on to more middle grade fiction with Ungifted by Gordon Korman.