"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.Don’t get me wrong—this was a good book. Really. It’s just that it was kind of depressing. And by “kind of,” I mean “totally.” Not depressing in the “people die” kind of way, but depressing in the “wow, her life really, really sucks and the author doesn’t try to let you down easy” kind of way. In the Sara Zarr kind of way. And I didn’t realize that going in, and I wasn’t exactly in the mood for it either. So I’ll just admit up front that I didn’t totally love this book, but I’ll also acknowledge that it was an “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. Because, it was really well-written. Truly. I just wanted something happier at that particular moment.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused, then dead."
''I love you," Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.
Anyway, contrary to what you may expect from my explanations above, I actually had a hard time putting this book down. I ended up staying up waaay longer than planned because I HAD to keep reading. Part of it was because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Part of it was because I admired the way the author told the story. But mostly it was because I couldn’t bear to leave Eleanor alone. Her life is SO hard, and I didn’t want Eleanor to have to bear it on her own, you know? I wanted to be there for her in the only way I could.
Speaking of Eleanor, she wasn’t what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t her strange clothes, crazy hair, prickly attitude, or insecurities. But neither was it her ability to endure, her lack of complaints about her horrible situation, or her tentative joy at falling in love. And really, watching Eleanor fall in love was one of the best things about this book. She’s not used to happiness, and when she finds it, she wears it like an ill-fitting coat at first. Well, more than just at first. She never even gets close to comfortable with finally getting something good. She struggles to not feel as happy and in love as she is because she’s confident it won’t last. But she can’t help herself. And I loved that.
Park is the opposite of Eleanor. After a bumpy start, he jumps head first into loving her. He has his own issues, but he’s not worn down by life like Eleanor, so he’s able to approach their relationship with enough openness and eagerness for them both. And while his belief that nothing can ever come between them is naive, it's a naivete I wanted to protect. I didn't want him to have to grow out that beautifully optimistic conviction the hard way.
You see? Plenty of things to like about this book. I just wasn’t really in the mood for it, especially since I was expecting something different. But now you’ve been forewarned and forearmed, and you can read it and appreciate it more than I did.
Rating: Um . . . no idea. I guess 4 in terms of quality, but 3.5 in terms of how much I enjoyed it.