Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book. It was sooo good and Sooo real. Alost everyone in high school can relate to this book. If you can’t, you were probably the “pretty one” or the bully (no offense). Sweet, funny, heartbreaking story about first love between two misfits

Eleanor is poor, and chubby, and redheaded, and unpopular. What no one knows about is her life at home, her abusive step-dad, her meek mother and her brothers and sisters who look to her to do the right thing. One day on the bus she starts reading Park's comics. Park is kind of tangentially popular, but nerdy, and one of the only Asian kids in Omaha. So who would have thought they'd fall in love? But fall in love they do, in the way that only high-schoolers can. Their love story would be sweet and awesome for them, if life were easy. But it's not.

When the novel begins, Park is timid and unsure of himself. He's spending the capital he's built up by having a father from the flats and a popular sixth grade girlfriend, but otherwise keeping his head down and staying out of the way of the popular kids. He knows he's different (musical interests, race, and some gender fluidity), but he has no desire to express those differences. Eleanor gives him the confidence to more comfortably and outwardly be himself.

This is just one way in which Eleanor helps Park in his struggle with what it means to become a man. Park can't help but sense the disappointment his Dad feels at having a son who doesn't care about sports and can't drive stick. Park knows he's not the stereotypical macho male, but doesn't have an understanding of how he can otherwise be a man. We witness Park struggle with his masculinity throughout the book as he has to decide how to stand up to Steve, how to treat Eleanor in the midst of his hard to control desire for her, whether or not to use his Dad's new gun, how to protect Eleanor, and how to treat Richie as the book ends. Rowell has given us a realistic portrayal of a teen male figuring out how to take responsibility and stand up for himself and others without violence. (Note that the fight with Steve didn't really solve anything and Steve contends that Park only had to speak up and he would have laid off Eleanor.) Eleanor lets him know that Park can stay true to himself and still enter manhood.



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